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THE - / 




IN MARTim^k':' ' " '  

• * * 

BY ' - 


•-"» * » a t * 

\ * * * 




* •• 

* ^ * ^ '* ' ' * " -'"-'-^ ^- " 


--- - : - ' 




• • 

;T0R, LENOX and 

R 1916 L 

• • •• * • 

•:..••. V:.:-. .v...;. 

• ••-•• • • • • 

••• ••• 

• •• 

-• • • • 

• i 

• • •• • 

• • 

• • 

• • 

• • • -•• 

• • • • • 

.• • ••• 

• .iW«i«J>t, 1902, by 

. •tTMiT Outlook Company 
• ••* • 

• VP|i6l£||iVd November, 1902 

• a 



I — ^The Voyage to Martinique * . * . 3 
II— Our Ride to Mont Pelse . . 'ai 

III — Basse Pointe and J4q^^6 Rouge 50 

IV — In the Track of the Volcanic 

Hurricane . ^ . . . . . . 74 

V — A Night EruptiOr- ^of Mont 

Pelee . . . * . . . . 96'. 

VI — Acier and the Calebasse Road jr-24 

VII — Climbing the Volcano . . . . . 144 

VIII— The Western Slope of Mont 

Pelee 163 

IX — ^The Wrecked City . . . . 185 

X — The Destruction of St. Pierre 201 

XI — The Causes of the Catastrophe 228 

• • • • 






* . : 

, • 



• . • 





-. •.••••• 









• • * • 









' # 


• • 

• • 

• • 

• * • 

• • • 

• •..••• • 

t« •• • 


• •' 

• • 

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• _ 

• • 


•• • 

I * 

• • • 



The night eruption of May 26, from 
the road going south from Vive 
toward Acier Title 

The eruption of May 28, from Acier 20 

The central part of St. Pierre ... 40 

One of the few streets in St Pierre 

whose outlines can be traced . . 40 

One of the least obstructed streets in 

St. Pierre 49 

Valley down which the volcanic deluge 

came at Precheur on May 7 . . 49 

Father Mary 68 

Basse Point 84 

An eruption as seen from the church 

at Morne Rouge 117 

Mont Pelee from Vive on May 27 . 132 




Crossing the Lac des Palmistes on the 

top of Mont Pelee, June ist . . 149 

Looking up one of the Upper Gorges 

of the Falaise 164 

The village of Trois Fonts . . 181 

Remains of a fine private house near 

the bluff, St. Pierre 196 

St. Pierre, looking south 196 

Debris in lower story of a house in St. 

Pierre 212 

St. Pierre, looking toward the ocean 

from near the cemetery . . . . 212 

The Riviere Blanche Region . . . 228 




» • > » 

• ^ • 

I . 



-■ ^ -» 

ON the 8th of Mayy^t9p2, the capjaihr 
of the French cruiser Suchet <;aKe<i 
from Fort de France to the Minister 

- fl > •> • 

of Marine in Paris that the city of St Pierre, 
Martinique, had been completely destroyed 
by an eruption of the volcano Mont Pelee ; 
that all, or nearly all, of its inhabitants had 
perished ; and that thousands of people in 
the northern part of the Island, who had fled 
in terror from their homes, were in urgent 
need of food and help. As soon as the first 
reports of the great catastrophe had been con- 
firmed, the Government and the people of 
the United States took energetic measures for 
the relief of the homeless and suffering sur- 
vivors. The Secretary of the Navy, by di- 


rection of the President, ordered to Martin- 
ique the cruiser Cincinnati from Santo 
Domiiigo • and the tug Potomac from Porto 

• • 

France and ascertdmthe extent of the disaster; 

] Congress made an appropriation of |200,cx:)0 

\ for the purchase-^of /ood ; and the cruiser 

• :^..- /.Dixie, Captain* BBriyi was ordered to prepare 

^''/yj^r^^a and •saiKfttf' -Martinique at the earliest 

* •"/.KfidnScttt possiMe," with such relief supplies as 

'dbiild &? hastily bought and collected. 

On the 13th of May, The Outlook tele- 
graphed me " Can you go to Martinique on 
the Dixie ? " I replied that I could, and hav- 
ing obtained through the courtesy of the 
President, an order from the Secretary of the 
Navy for transportation, I left Washington 
for New York on the midnight train. After 
half a day spent in obtaining a tropical outfit, 
which was by no means satisfactory or com- 
plete, but which there was ho time to make 
better, I went on board the Dixie,: Wednes- 
day afternoon. May T4, and found tier decks 
crowded with army officers, newspaper men 


and scientists, all bound for the scene of the 
disaster. Among those who I knew, person- 
ally or by reputation, were Professors Russell 
and Jaggar, of Ann Arbor and Cambridge ; 
Mr. Robert T. Hill of the U. S. Geological 
Survey ; Dr. E. O. Hovey of the New York 
Museum of Natural History ; Mr. C. E* 
Borchgrevink of Antarctic fame ; and Mr. A. 
F. Jaccaci of McClure's Magazine. Besides 
these there were two French gentlemen who 
had friends of financial interests in Martin- 
ique ; half a dozen army officers and sur- 
geons ; as many more non-commissioned 
officers and men from the Commissary De- 
partment and Hospital Corps; and finally 
the representatives of twenty-two newspapers, 
press associations and magazines. How all 
of these forty-four passengers were to be taken 
to Martinique on a warship that had no pas- 
senger accommodations whatever, I could not 
quite see ; but I was fully prepared, myself, 
to sleep on deck and eat with the bluejackets, 
if necessary, and I presumed that most, if not 
all, of the army officers, scientists and news- 
paper men, had been accustomed to rough- 
ing it, and would accommodate themselves 



to circumstances with cheerfulness and philo- 
sophic equanimity. 

It was supposed that the Dixie would sail 
at four o'clock Wednesday afternoon ; but at 
eight o'clock in the evening relief supplies 
were still being hoisted aboard, and we did 
not finally get away until half-past nine. Two 
hours later we passed Sandy Hook, and the 
revolving search-light on the Navesink High- 
lands waved a good-bye to us as we steamed 
out to sea in the darkness and laid a course 
for Martinique by way of the Anegada Pas- 

The next two or three days were mainly 
spent in getting acquainted with one another 
and with our new and unfamiliar environ- 
ment. Most of us were assigned to quarters 
below, on the after berth-deck, and slept in 
hammocks slung so closely together that the 
rather dark and gloomy space under the after 
hatch looked like a crowded hospital ward, 
with white canvas hammocks in place of cot 
beds. The officers of the Dixie tried in every 
possible way to make us all comfortable ; but 
the best that could be done, so far as sleep- 
ing accommodations were concerned, was to 



give every man a hammock and twelve square 
feet of floor-space on the berth-deck under 
the after hatch. Most of us, however, had 
slept in hammocks before, and, apart from 
the inconvenience of having no place to put 
soap, towels, shaving implements, and other 
things in daily use, we were fairly comforta- 
ble. Those who had neglected in New York 
to provide themselves with portable mirrors 
were compelled to shave themselves by the 
sense of touch — " unsight unseen " — or by 
distorted reflections of their sunburned faces 
in the bright bottom of a new tin pail ; but 
this served merely to develop skill and stim- 
ulate ingenuity. The atmosphere of " News- 
paper Row " was pervaded by a strong odor 
of reconcentrado codfish from the hold un- 
derneath ; but Mr. Fife, of the New York 
" Evening Post," who was not always able to 
go to the ward-room table, declared that even 
this had its advantages, inasmuch as it enabled 
him to take, by inhalation and absorption, 
meals that he should otherwise miss. The 
rest of us, to whom inhaled food was more 
or less objectionable, breathed it under pro- 
test and consoled ourselves with sympathetic 



anticipation of the joy that that codfish was 
going to carry to the hungry volcano victims 
of Martinique. If the trade-winds would 
only blow in the right direction, our coming 
would be heralded in advance by an ancient 
and fishlike smell. The codfish, however, 
troubled us only at night. We spent our 
days, for the most part, in steamer chairs, 
under canvas awnings on the quarter-deck ; 
some experimenting with photographic cam- 
eras; some reading volcano literature, from 
The Last Days of Pompeii " to Brigham's 
Text-Book of Geology ;" some playing 
chess on the ship's big board with Brobding- 
nagian chessmen of iron and bronze, and a 
few teasing " General Weyler," the ship's 
monkey, by showing him an empty glove, 
of which he had an extraordinary fear, and 
then placating him with beer, which he drank 
out of the bottle with as much skill and gusto 
as if he had been accustomed to find bottles 
of beer growing on cocoanut trees in his na- 
tive jungles. 

In the evening a dozen of the younger 
officers and newspaper men used to get to- 
gether in a sheltered place on the quarter 



deck with banjos and guitars, and the soft, 
steady trade-winds carried away to leeward 
the words and music of Kipling's " On the 
Road to Mandalav," or the land-lubber's 

Mr. Captain, stop the ship! 

1 want to get off and walk. 

Still later in the evening, two of^our most 
distinguished volcano experts would play 
ping-pong on the ward-room table, while the 
rest of us stood around, criticising the " serv- 
ing," and catching erratic balls that seemed 
likely to go overboard through the cabin 
door. Sometime before midnight we all 
went below, put on our pajamas, climbed 
(with difficulty) into our swaying hammocks, 
imagined that we were in the forecastle of a 
cod-fishing schooner on the Grand Banks, 
and — ^with some co-operation from the snor- 
ers— dreamed of volcanic eruptions and Kra- 
katoa catastrophes until morning. 

Voyages in unfrequented seas are almost 
proverbially tiresome and monotonous ; but 
volcano-hunting in the tropics on a United 
States cruiser, with half a dozen scientists and 
fifteen or twenty bright, fiin-loving newspaper 


men, is a far from uninteresting occupation. 
Man-of-war life, in itself, with its morning and 
evening band-music, its gun drills, fire drills, 
and "setting-up drills" for the bluejackets 
and marines, is much more entertaining than 
the life of a transatlantic passenger steamer ; 
and when to these are added daily lectures on 
deck, storjps of adventure and descriptions of 
travel given in the ward-room by men who 
have been in all parts of the world, discus- 
sions of volcanic phenomena by scientific ex- 
perts from Washington, Cambridge, and Ann 
Arbor, and rag-time "coon songs" with 
banjo and guitar accompaniment on the after 
deck in the soft tropical moonlight, the time 
passes pleasantly and rapidly. 

Friday afternoon, Mr. Borchgrevink, the 
Antarctic explorer, gave a lecture on the 
forecastle to a crowd of bluejackets, marines, 
officers, scientists, and newspaper men ; Sat- 
urday we had a lecture from Dr. Hill, of the 
Geological Survey, on the structure of the 
earth ; Sunday I tried to intimidate the 
thermometer and lower the temperature by 
giving the men a talk on winter travel in 
Arctic Russia ; and Monday Professor Rus- 



sell, of Ann Arbor, explained volcanic phe- 
nomena and described a night spent under 
125 feet of sno\<^ in the crater of the extinct 
volcano Mount Rainier, where the rocks are 
still warm enough to melt great caves under 
the snow -cap, and where the mountain- 
climber may warm himself beside a jet of 
hot steam under a snowy roof 125 feet in 

The journalists, in order not to be outdone 
by the scientists and lecturers, organized 
themselves into a society to be known as 
"The Volcano Volunteers," and began the 
publication of a semi-occasional newspaper 
entitled " The Dixie." It was typewritten 
and had a circulation of only three copies ; 
but its advertisements, personals, local items 
and marconigrams were things of joy, and 
nothing but the lack of press and postal 
facilities prevented it from becoming the 
most popular, widely read and influential 
journal in the whole Sargasso Sea. 

We entered the Caribbean by way of the 
Anegada Passage, on the morning of Tues- 
day, May 20. When I went on deck at six 
o'clock, the sun had just risen in an unclouded 



sky and we were steaming swiftly, over a tran- 
quil sea of luminous light-indigo blue, toward 
the high, precipitous, cloud-capped island of 
Saba.- — the first of the long chain of volcanic 
peaks that stretches across the eastern end of 
the Caribbean from north latitude i8° almost 
to the coast of South America. 

Tropical islands, at first sight, are gener- 
ally disappointing in color, if not in form. 
The exquisite rich luminous blue of the sea 
leads one to expect a corresponding vividness 
and freshness of green in the land; and when 
the misty silhouette of a mountain peak 
ahead loses, gradually, the tender atmospheric 
purple of distance and begins to assume its 
own natural inherent color, one is surprised 
and disappointed to find that its salient slopes, 
if not cultivated, have a rusty, semi-arid ap- 
pearance, and that its vegetation, although 
green, is comparatively dark, dull, and life- 
less. The hills of Nova Scotia, or the islands 
in the English Channel, when seen in June 
at a distance of five or six miles, are much 
brighter and fresher, and have far greater 
variety in their tints and shades of green, than 
any islands I have ever seen in the West In- 



dies. Tropical foliage is extremely beauti- 
ful and varied in form when seen in detail 
and at short range ; but in mass and at a dis- 
tance it is disappointing. 

In massive ruggedness and grandeur of out- 
line, however, the splendid volcanic peaks of 
the lesser Antilles leave nothing to be desired. 
The island of Saba, moreover, has an interest 
of its own not dependent upon color or form. 
It is an extinct volcano — or a volcano sup- 
posed to be extinct — and nearly all of its in- 
habitants live high above the sea in the shal- 
low, saucer-like bed of its ancient crater. 
There are a few red-roofed houses scattered 
here and there in sheltered ravines on its 
northern slope ; but the only village on the 
island is situated in the volcano's choked-up 
throat. The Dutch colonists in this high- 
crater village must have had some anxious 
days and nights when Mont Pelee and the 
Soufriere of St. Vincent burst into smoke 
and flame in the early part of May. The 
inhabitants of St. Pierre, living at a distance 
of more than four miles from the summit of 
Mont Pelee, had a chance, at least, of escape; 
but if the subterranean disturbance had ex- 



tended to the northern islands of the Wind- 
ward group there would have been no hope 
for the people living in the crater of Saba. 

The principal industries of this rugged, 
precipitous island have always been the 
building of boats and the ornamentation of 
linen by means of what is known as " drawn- 
work." Although Saba has neither harbor 
nor beach, its inhabitants managed to build 
boats on the high mountain slopes and 
launched them over precipices by means of 
chains and cables. For many years the fish- 
ing boats of Saba were regarded as the best to 
be had in the Caribbean ; and the drawn- 
work of the Saba women, wlych is still of- 
fered for sale in St. Thomas and Guadeloupe, 
is fully equal to the Mexican product and is 
surpasssd only by that of Russia. There is 
no other island, perhaps, on the globe, whose 
inhabitants' live -in the crater of an extinct 
volcano and support themselves, at least in 
part, by building boats on the tops of preci- 
pices and making drawn-work out of ma- 
terials imported from Europe. 

As soon as we entered the Caribbean, we 
began to look for signs of volcanic activity ; 


but, with the exception of what seemed to be 
an intermittent jet of steam in a bare spot 
half-way up the steep western slope of Saba, 
we saw nothing to indicate that there was a 
volcano within a thousand miles. The 
second great eruption of Mont Pelee was in 
progress when I went on deck that very 
morning, and the detonations that accom- 
panied it were certainly heard at Guadeloupe, 
and were probably audible at St. Kitts and 
Santa Cruz ; but we did not notice any un- 
. usual sounds, nor could we see the faintest 
indication of volcanic dust in the air. The 
sea was tranquil and the atmosphere clear all 
day, as we steamed southward past Saba, St. 
Kitts, Montserrat, and Gaudeloupe; and 
when the " Volcanco Volunteers " climbed 
into their hammocks on the after berth-deck 
of the Dixie at eleven o'clock that night, 
there was a general feeling of disappointment, 
due to a fear that Mont Pelee had lapsed 
into quiescence and that we should arrive too 
late to see anything like a spectacular erup- 

We expected to make the northwestern 
coast of Martinique before daylight Wednes- 



day morning, and at four o'clock a few of us 
were on deck watching eagerly for the first in- 
dication of volcanic activity. It was a clear, 
warm, starry night, and by the light of a 
nearly full moon, which was just setting, we 
could dimly make out ahead the faint shad- 
owy outline of a high, beautifully sculptured 
peak which we took at first sight to be Pelee. 
Mr. Hill, however, who had visited Martin- 
ique before and was more familiar than the 
rest of us with the topography of the island, 
soon identified it as one of the peaks of the 
Carbet group, situated just south of Pelee. 
The volcano itself, as we soon discovered, 
was hidden from base to summit in a mantle 
of dark vapor, above which, against the starry 
sky, rose to a height of two or three thou- 
sand feet, a huge column of steam which 
looked in the moonlight like one of the piled- 
up cumulus clouds locally known in the 
Middle West as " thunderheads." 

Near the line where the black mantle of 
Pelee met the sea, there were two glowing 
fires, which we thought, at first, might be 
cremation fires in the wrecked city of St. 
Pierre, and a little farther to the northward 



three or four twinkling lights marked the site 
of Precheur. With these exceptions the 
whole coast was dark. As the yellowish 
moon sank lower and lower in the west and 
the sky began to brighten behind the cloud- 
capped peaks of Carbet, we ran in at a sharp 
angle toward the harbor of Fort de France 
until the fires of St. Pierre and the great 
mantle of dark vapor that hid the outline of 
Pelee vanished behind one of the high but- 
tresses of the mountainous coast. We could 
still see, however, the column of steam rising 
from the volcano's crater and slowly piling 
itself up in vast convolutions above the light 
trade-wind clouds which drifted westward 
across the island. 

Between six and seven o'clock the Dixie 
steamed slowly into the harbor of Fort de 
France, where we found lying at anchor the 
Cincinnati, the Potomac, the French cruiser 
Suchet, the repair-steamer of the French 
Cable Company, and three or four other ves- 
sels. An officer from the Cincinnati soon came 
alongside in a steam-launch, and shouted to 
Captain Berry that he had a telegram for him 
from Washington, and that the Dixie would 



probably have to go at once to St. Vincent, 
where the suffering and destitution were 
worse, and the need of relief greater, than in 
any part of Martinique. 

The newspaper men and scientists there- 
upon held consultations, in all parts of the 
ship, with regard to the best course of pro- 
cedure. Should they go to St. Vincent with 
Captain Berry, or land at Fort de France 
and take the chance of being picked up by 
the Dixie on her return trip ? Most of them 
decided in favor of St. Vincent, but Mr. Jac- 
caci, Mr. Varian, and I concluded to remain 
in Martinique and make as careful a study as 
possible of St. Pierre and Mont Pelee. We 
landed, therefore, in one of the ship's boats, 
soon after breakfast ; made the acquaintance 
of Mr. Ay me. United States Consul at 
Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe, who was then act- 
ing as Consul in Martinique; and with his as- 
sistance succeeded in getting rooms in the 
Grand European Hotel, a three-story build- 
ing fronting on the Savane, or public square, 
near the piers. After discussing the situa- 
tion and exchanging itelms of news with Mr. 
Ayme, Mr. Jaccaci and I went out to take 



a walk, buy a few things that we wanted, 
and inspect the city. 

Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, 
is a town of about 16,000 inhabitants, and is 
situated on the northern side of the bay of the 
same name, under the shelter of rather high, 
rounded hills. As seen from the water, it is 
a compact mass of red roofs and dark-green 
foliage, standing on very low, flat ground, 
between the mouth of the Riviere Madame 
and the massive gray walls of an ancient and 
apparently dismantled fort. Its buildings, 
which are generally two or three stories in 
height, are made of kalsomined brick, or 
rubble masonry covered with stucco ; its 
streets, although narrow, are clean and well- 
paved ; little streams of clear water from the 
hills run constantly through the open gut- 
ters ; and the Savane, or public square, which 
borders the sea just north of the fort, is a 
fine, grassy park 1,000 feet long and 600 feet 
in width, intersected by walks and shaded by 
sandbox trees, tamarinds and royal palms. A 
large, well-ventilated iron building, about 
midway between the Grand Hotel and the 
Riviere Madame, shelters the central market ; 



there is a good public library in a large 
house fronting on the Savane ; the marble 
statue of the Empress Josephine, which 
stands in a circle of royal palms near the 
centre of the park, is a really creditable work 
of art ; and at the head of one of the princi- 
pal streets, just north of the Riviere Ma- 
dame, the Fontaine de Gueydon rushes out 
of the arched mouth of a big stone aqueduct 
on the summit of a steep hillj falls in a thin, 
silvery sheet to a circular basin below, and 
then runs in a dozen little streams through 
the city. 

The population of Fort de France, as 
seen on the water front and in the main 
streets, is made up almost wholly of negroes, 
mulattoes, quadroons, and ethnological hy- 
brids of one sort or another, whose complex- 
ions range from the pure black of the un- 
modified African to the swarthy white of the 
French octoroon and the rather delicate red- 
dish-brown of the " capresse." All the women 
wear turbans made of bright-colored bandanna 
kerchiefs ; most of the men go bare-footed ; 
and at least two persons out of every five 
carry loads on their heads in baskets, bundles 





or shallow wooden trays. Here and there 
we met a French gentleman in white duck 
clothes and pith helmet, going down to the 
pier ; two or three young naval officers in 
uniform who had just come ashore from 
the cruiser Suchet ; or a lady in light 
European dress on her way to church ; but 
four-fifths of the people whom we saw on 
the streets were either black or of mixed 
blood. They seemed, however, to be talk- 
ative, good-humored, courteous and fairly 
intelligent, and made upon me, generally, a 
more favorable impression than that made 
by the common people of Spanish-African 
descent in Cuba. 

The favorite place of resort for the French- 
men of the town seemed to be the open 
kiosk at the edge of the Savane in front of 
our hotel. There, gentlemen of leisure and 
white-uniformed officers from the Suchet 
assembled every afternoon and evening to 
play cards, smoke cigarettes, talk about the 
volcano, and sip queer West Indian drinks. 
I thought I was familiar with most of the 
cooling, heating, refreshing and inebriating 
beverages known to civilized man ; but the 



waiters of Bediat's Hotel, who answered 
calls from tables in the kiosk, compounded 
in a big glass cylinder and mixed by means 
of a perforated piston a drink that I wholly 
failed to recognize. It looked like choco- 
late, churned into a foam by working a 
piston up and down through it in a glass 
garden-syringe. Upon making inquiries, I 
learned that it was a cocktail ! As I had 
never seen a cocktail made in that way, and 
as I was hot and tired from walking about 
the town, I ventured to order one. I don't 
know of what ingredients that chocolate- 
colored beverage was composed ; but I de- 
cided, after tasting it, that I should make 
no more experiments with drinks mixed in 
a glass hand-churn, and that a plain lemon- 
ade with a straw in it would thenceforth 
meet all my wants. 

But the Grand Hotel de Bediat was as 
queer as the drinks that are furnished. Break- 
fast, or luncheon, was served at 1 1 a. m. 
Negro waiters, who wore nothing but shirts and 
trousers, brought food to the guests at small 
tables, and put more food, for the dogs of the 
guests, into plates on the floor. The dogs 



and cats of the hotel, who were apparently 
familiar with this custom, endeavored to get 
a share of the food furnished to the guest- 
dogs, and the result was a general and prom- 
iscuous scrimmage, which, with the joyous 
crowing of three or four big roosters in a wire 
coop just off the dining-room, furnished, in 
a simple form, all the comforts of home, 
which were charged as extras in the bill. I 
was told by Mr. Ayme that none of the ex- 
plosions of Mont Pelee were heard in this 
hotel. If they occurred at meal-time, the fact 
is not surprising. Mr. Bediat's combination 
of dogs, cats and roosters would have 
drowned Krakatoa. Dinner, which was usu- 
ally served at 7 p. m., was a more quiet and 
ceremonious function, owing to the fact that 
the roosters had gone to roost and were not 
yet ready to begin crowing for morning, and 
the guests with dogs happened to be dining 
somewhere else. The table d'hote dinner 
consisted of soup made out of warm water and 
toast ; fish brought from the Grand Banks in 
a sailing vessel, which, unfortunately, had no 
cold-storage facilities ; a dismembered rooster, 
dried over a charcoal-brazier after advancing 



age had rendered him incapable of crowing in 
the hotel coop ; green peas cooked in oil ; 
ice cream flavored with bergamot and served 
in brandy-glasses ; cheese, coflPee and tooth- 
picks. The cheese and the coflTee were good ; 
and after I had gone to my room and mixed 
for myself a stiflF drink of malted milk and 
Vichy water, I felt quite strengthened and re- 
freshed by the dinner. Mr. Ayme, however, 
who had an inherited objection to fish that 
was more than six weeks old, rebelled at the 
second course, summoned the proprietor and 
filed a protest ; but Mr. Bediat called all the 
saints of Martinique to bear witness that the 
fish had not been brought from the Grand 
Banks in a dismasted schooner, but had been 
carefully selected by a District Messenger 
boy, aged six, in the local market. He ad- 
mitted, however, that the second course was 
a little weak, and promised to make a suita- 
ble abatement in the price of the dinner. 
Then, when we had a guest at breakfast 
^the next morning, he covered the loss on the 
fish by charging the guest's breakfast in three 
separate accounts — Mr. Ayme's, Mr. Jac- 
caci's and mine. Mr. Ayme was probably too 



fastidious, and too much inclined to give a 
free rein to his appetite ; and if he had beet 
living elsewhere, he might have become cor- 
pulent and sluggish. It is a great mistake to 
eat too much in a hot climate ; and for that 
reason I can confidently recommend the 
Grand European Hotel at Fort de France as 
a place where a northern man may hope to 
escape the disastrous consequences of intensive 
nutrition in a tropical environment. If he 
lives prudently, and doesn't have the misfor- 
tune to get overheated when Mr. Bediat pre- 
sents his bill, he will never die of apoplexy 
in Martinique. 

Mr. Jaccaci and I spent most of Wednes- 
day afternoon in getting statements of personal 
experience from sailorsof the steamer Roraima 
and other survivors of the St. Pierre catas- 
trophe, who were then recovering from their 
frightful burns in the Military Hospital. 

Thursday we made a hasty trip to St. 
Pierre on the United States tug Potomac, 
and, after examining the desolate, gashed, 
furrowed, steam-rent slope of the volcano on 
that side, decided to adopt a plan suggested 
by Mr. Jaccaci, which was to proceed north- / 



ward by way of the eastern coast, and attack 
the volcano from the windward side. 

There seemed to be no reasonably safe 
base of operations on the St. Pierre slope, but 
by establishing our headquarters at some 
sugar plantation near the foot of Pelee on the 
opposite side we could probably reach Morne 
Rouge, which was only three miles south of 
the main crater, and from there it might be 
practicable to make an ascent. At any rate, 
we should escape the smoke and suffocating 
vapor that rolled at intervals down the hot 
mud-fields between St. Pierre and Precheur, 
and the showers of ashes that the steady trade- 
wind carried westward over the Caribbean 

At eleven o'clock Thursday night Mr. Jac- 
caci came to my room to tell me that horses 
had been ordered for 5 a. m., and that as soon 
as possible thereafter we should start for the 
volcano by way of Trinite, Marigot, and 
Grande Anse. 



our ride to mont 


ALTHOUGH the servants in Bediat's 
Hotel had been strictly enjoined 
to get us up at four o'clock, and a 
carriage with a span of mules had been ordered 
forfive,we were allowed to sleep peacefully un- 
til a quarter of six, when the increasing light 
andthecrowing of cocks in the hotel courtyard 
made it impossible for anyone but a native to 
sleep longer. From the point of view of the 
proprietor it was unreasonable, of course, to 
order or expect breakfast in a Martinique ho- 
tel at 6 A. M. The servants did not begin to 
clear the tables in the dining-room and wash 
the dishes left there from the previous night's 
dinner until seven, and the regular hour for 
breakfast was eleven. We proceeded, there- 



fore, to get breakfast for ourselves on a bare, 
dirty table in the bar-room. We had taken 
the precaution to bring a small quantity of 
elementary nutriment ashore with us from 
the Dixie ; and as we munched dry hardtack 
and drank malted milk mixed with Vichy water 
over that dirty bar-room table, we felt as if 
we had reason to congratulate ourselves upon 
our prevision, if not our provision. Hardtack 
and slab-chocolate, eaten in alternate bites 
and washed down with a mixture of malted- 
milk powder and tepid Vichy water, make a 
fine, wholesome breakfast — for the tropics. 

After breakfast, Mr. Jaccaci had to go in 
search of the carriage and mules, and from 
the volcanic expression of his face when he 
left the bar-room I felt sure that the tardy 
driver would shortly be overwhelmed by a 
verbal eruption in several languages — and he 
was ! We got under way at last, and rolling 
past the Savane, with its mango-trees, tama- 
rinds and palm-encircled statue of Josephine, 
we began the ascent of the long, flower-fringed 
foad which leads up to Fort Desaix, and thence, 
across mountains and vallevs innumerable, to 
the eastern coast of the island at Trinite. 



the villas that stood behind these hedges and 
gardens we could see little or nothing. They 
were buried in masses of foliage and bloom. 

As we passed the gate of Fort Desaix, 
near the top of the hill, we met a squad of 
French buglers, who were marching slowly 
and solemnly around the outside of the fort, 
tooting in unison what I presumed to be the 
Martinique reveille. 

Emerging at last from the narrow, wind- 
ing, flower-bordered road and reaching the 
crest of the great divide that separates the 
Riviere Monsieur from the Riviere Madame^ 
we looked out over a wonderfully beautiful 
panorama of wooded foothills, deep misty 
valleys, sunlit plains, and shimmering water, 
that seemed to extend from the cloud-capped 
peaks of Carbet on the north to the low 
purple mountains that bound the Bay of Fort 
de France on the south. An extensive tract 
of level land, covered with sugar-cane, could 
be seen near the head of the bay, but every- 
where else the island was a billowy sea of 
mountains, with here and there the glimmer 
of a stream, a few patchwork squares of culti- 
vation, or a cluster of red-roofed houses to 



light up the deep, shadowy valleys or break 
the dark green masses of foliage on the 
forested slopes. Over the crests of these huge 
green mountain billows and down into the 
valleys that separated them ran the white 
macadamized road in a series of long loops 
and curves, now sweeping in deep shadow 
around the head of a wild ravine and crossing 
a foaming torrent on a stone bridge, then 
climbing a long, smooth grade to the crest of 
a sunny divide, then plunging into a dark 
valley where the horizon-line was a silhouette 
of palms against the sky a thousand feet 
overhead, and finally doubling on itself in a 
narrow horseshoe curve and ascending to a 
breezy morney or dome-shaped mound, from 
which we could see the ocean, the bay, and 
almost the whole southern half of the island. 
The road was so sinuous, and changed direc- 
tion so rapidly, that even with the aid of the 
sun and the steady trade-wind it was almost 
impossible to keep ourselves accurately ori- 
ented. In the course of a short half-hour 
that road would run north, south, east and 
west by turns ; and when, upon coming up 
out of a deep ravine, we looked ahead for the 



peaks of Carbet, we were sure to find our- 
selves facing in the opposite direction, with 
the peaks at our backs. Two or three times 
at least I mistook the Bay of Fort de France 
for the ocean on the other side of the island, 
and prominent landmarks seemed to be con- 
stantly shifting from place to place, as if some 
superhuman power rearranged them every 
time we went down into a deep valley and 
lost sight of them. The highways in Mar- 
tinique are almost as smooth and perfect as 
roads can be made; but their loops and 
curves are as eccentric as the tracings of a 
seismograph in a Lisbon earthquake. 

An hour and a half from Fort de France 
we passed at a short distance the picturesque 
village of St. Joseph ; two hours later we 
watered our mules in a little hamlet half-way 
across the island ; and just before noon, 
from the eastern slope of a great mountain 
dome known as Gros Morne, we caught sight 
of the Atlantic. 

After leaving the Gros Morne we began 
to meet long lines of women and girls carry- 
ing roofing-tiles from Trinite to a sugar plan- 
tation a few miles back in the interior, and 



had an opportunity to see what the " porte- 
uses " of Martinique are like, and what they 
are able to do and endure in the blazing sun- 
shine of the tropics. Freight of all sorts is 
carried and distributed throughout the in- 
terior of Martinique by women and young 
girls. Ox-carts are used for the transporta- 
tion of cane from the fields to the sugar-mills, 
and little donkeys bring into the villages 
sacks of charcoal, or loads of green forage 
that are big enough sometimes to hide them 
completely from sight ; but all kinds of mer- 
chandise, including dry goods, groceries, 
hardware, kerosene, farm products, and even 
such things as building-stones, bricks, cement, 
and roofing-tiles, are carried from place to 
place on the heads of women and girls. I 
cannot remember to have seen, at any time 
or in any part of the island, a pack-train of 
mules, or a wagon or cart of any kind loaded 
with freight ; but you cannot go a mile on 
any country road without meeting at least one 
line of straight, vigorous, barefooted women, 
walking swiftly, with a long, free, swaying 
stride, and balancing without effort on their 
heads loads weighing from fifty to eighty 



pounds. If we three travelers could have 
had ourselves divided and made into six 
packages, I am perfectly sure that six of those 
women might have carried us in wooden trays 
on their heads from Fort de France to Trin- 
ite much more rapidly than we were drawn 
over that distance by a span of able-bodied 
mules, and that they would have shown less 
fatigue and distress than the mules did upon 
arrival. The colored women of Martinique 
are not attractive, as a rule, in feature ; but 
the habit of carrying heavy loads, for hours 
at a time, on their heads has given them 
superb erectness and grace of figure, together 
with an elasticity of step and a freedom of 
movement that I have never seen equaled. 

As we left the Gros Morne and went down 
toward the seacoast in the direction of Trinite, 
there was a complete change in the scenery 
and vegetation. The mountains gradually 
became lower ; cocoanut palms, bananas, bam- 
boos, and other distinctively tropical trees and 
shrubs disappeared altogether ; vast fields of 
young cane, which, at a distance, looked like 
green grass, clothed the slopes of the hills ; 
the few trees that remained stood here and 




there in groups or ran in straight lines through 
the sugar plantations ; and the scenery, in 
general, suggested the north temperate zone. 

We reached Trinite about i p. m., and 
drove to the " Hotel des Voyageurs " — 
a queer place kept by a Frenchified Yankee, 
forty-five or fifty years of age, named Frost. 
Mr. Frost wore iron-rimmed spectacles and 
looked and dressed like a New England 
deacon ; but he could not speak his father's 
language, and had married a corpulent negro 
woman, who managed, apparently, both the 
hotel and its nominal proprietor. 

After refreshing ourselves with a good 
lunch, we obtained fresh mules and started 
northward, up the eastern coast of the island, 
toward the plantation of Vive — a sugar es- 
tate at the foot of the volcano, owned by a 
wealthy French planter named Fernand 
Clerc. Mr. Clerc had not invited us to make 
him a visit; but as it was absolutely neces- 
sary that we should stay somewhere in the 
vicinity of the mountain, and, as we could not 
hear of any "Volcano Hotel" in that neigh- 
borhood, we intended to throw ourselves upon 
Mr. Clerc's hospitality and take the conse- 



quences. I felt some misgivings with regard 
to the reception that we should get — espe- 
cially if we should arrive late at night — but 
Mr. Jaccaci seemed hopeful and confident, 
and as he would have to do all the talking 
and explaining, I was satisfied to leave the 
matter in his hands. 

Up to the time of our arrival at Trinite, 
we had seen little or nothing to suggest the 
proximity of an active volcano. I had picked 
up a few small black volcanic stones on the 
balcony of Bediat's Hotel, and a thin film of 
bluish-gray ashes covered undisturbed parts 
of the road between Fort de France and 
St. Joseph ; but the vegetation everywhere 
looked fresh and green ; there was no smoke 
or dust in the air; the country people 
seemed to be attending to their work and 
going about their business as usual ; Mont 
Pelee was hidden most of the time behind the 
peaks and mornes of Carbet ; and there was 
absolutely nothing to suggest danger or ex- 
cite apprehension. Beyond Trinite, however, 
all this was changed. From the crests of the 
long, sloping mountain buttresses that the 
road crossed as it followed northward the 



sweeping curves of the surf-beaten coast, we 
could see the black mantle of storm-clouds in 
which the volcano was wrapped and the huge 
column of steam that rose into the clearer air 
above it. The film of ashes on the road 
grew thicker and thicker, and the leaves of 
the trees were covered with a gray deposit 
which looked like finely powdered Portland 
cement and that had been sifted over the foli- 
age after a rain and had then dried. Beyond 
Marigot the volcanic dust lay two inches deep 
on the road, and the trees — especially the 
breadfruit trees — had been so plastered with 
wet, clinging ashes that limbs three or four 
inches in thickness had been broken by the 
weight. In certain parts of the road the country 
looked almost as desolate as if it had been 
swept by a sleet-storm of Portland cement, 
which had poisoned the foliage, broken down 
the branches of the trees, and covered the 
whole earth with a thin sheet of fine grayish 

After leaving Marigot we began to meet 
long lines of men, women and children flying 
from the volcano, with their household goods 
and furniture on their heads. The great 



eruption of May 20 and the threatening ap- 
pearance of the volcano on the two subse- 
quent days had frightened the whole popula- 
tion in the northern part of the island, and 
hundredsof fugitives from Vive, Basse Pointe, 
Macouba, Morne Rouge, and Ajoupa Bouil- 
lon were streaming along the road to Trinite, 
carrying on their heads everything that it was 
possible to carry from their abandoned 
homes. Every member of a family, from the 
father to the youngest child that could walk, 
had a load of some sort. The man of the 
house usually marched in front, leading a cow 
or a goat, and balancing on his head a cheap 
yellow trunk. Then came the wife and 
mother, carrying a baby on one arm, and 
steadying with the other a big inverted 
kitchen table, the bottom of which she had 
filled with pots, pans and dishes. The old- 
est boy carried a wooden trayful of yams, 
mangoes, caladium roots, and two-tailed, 
loaves of bread ; his sister followed in his foot- 
steps with a handkerchief bundle of clothing 
crowned with a big straw hat ; and last of all 
tottled a five-year-old girl holding a chicken 
by the wings in one hand and cuddling to 



*• .;^ 


'DBUC library) 


her breast with the other a small, fluffy gray 

It was curious and interesting to see what 
things different families had selected and 
brought away from their abandoned homes. 
Some were carrying pillows and mattresses 
tied up with ropes, while others preferred food 
to bedding, and were loaded down with bread, 
mangoes, and edible roots. Some had pro- 
vided themselves with extra clothing wrapped 
in big bandanna handkerchiefs, others had left 
their spare clothing behind and brought away 
furniture. One woman was carrying three 
or foui- chickens in a wide-mouthed earthen- 
ware pot ; another had on her head a large 
razor-backed pig, lashed securely with raw- 
hide thongs in a shallow wooden tray. I pre- 
sume the pig refused to be led or driven 
away from the volcano, and the woman was 
forced to carry him. When we saw him, he 
had given up the struggle as hopeless, and 
had even stopped squealing ; but his fiery lit- 
tle eyes had an expression of wrathful pro- 
test, and if he had been able to increase his 
weight to half a ton, I am quite sure he would 
have done so. It was really too humiliating, 



even for a pig, to be lashed in a wooden tray 
and "toted" away from a volcano on a 
woman's head ! 

When we passed through Grande Anse, 
late in the afternoon, the long street running 
parallel with the sea was crowded with fugi- 
tives ; an immense throng of turbaned wom- 
en and children, in scarlet, purple, lilac, 
magenta, green, black, and dirty white calico 
gowns, had assembled in front of the "mairie," 
where food was being distributed by the mu- 
nicipal authorities, and the shrill clamor of 
excited voices could be heard a quarter of a 
mile away. The whole crowd stared at us 
with curiosity and surprise when they saw 
that we were going on in the direction from 
which they had just come, and one woman 
exclaimed, as she pointed at us with out- 
stretched arm, " Look at the poor unfortu- 
nates — going toward the mountain ! " She 
evidently thought that no sane man would 
approach the volcano unless forced to do so 
by dire necessity ; and she regarded us with 
sympathy and pity as persons compelled by 
some imperative duty to take desperate 
chances of life and death. 



Night overtook us between Grande Anse 
and Vive, and it grew so dark that we could 
hardly see the outlines of the road ; but still 
the long line of fugitives passed us, like a 
procession of shadowy ghosts, never speak- 
ing, never making the least noise, and never 
stopping except to whisper a prayer in front 
of some candle-lighted roadside shrine. They 
were flying in terror from a Vision of Sudden 
Death, and they fled in perfect silence. In 
some vague, indefinite way, this shadowy, 
noiseless procession of fugitives, hurrying 
from the volcano in the blackness of night, 
made a certain impression on us all ; but it 
was impossible, nevertheless, to realize that 
there was any adequate cause for the panic. 
" These poor ignorant negroes," I said to 
myself, " don't know anything about volca- 
noes, and of course when ashes begin to sift 
down on them they get frightened and run 
away, although there's really very little dan- 
ger." That we, ourselves, might get fright- 
ened and run away was a possibility that 
never once occurred to me ; and if I had 
happened to experience suddenly then the 
feeling of nervous dread with which that 



infernal volcano eventually inspired me, I 
should certainly have thought that I must 
be ill, and should have proceeded to dose 
myself with quinine, strychnine, and iron. 

Our tired mules were going very slowly 
and could hardly be lashed into a trot 
even on the descending slopes, when, about 
eight o'clock our attention was attracted by 
a bright light which suddenly appeared on 
the other side of a gulf of blackness that we 
took to be an intervening valley. When we 
reached the spot we found that the light 
came from a wayside shrine, where, behind 
a little glass door, two or three candles were 
burning in front of a small plaster crucifix. 
A group of fugitives had gathered about it, 
and when we asked one of them how far it 
was to the house of Mr. Clerc, he replied, 
" It is here." 

Driving through a long avenue shaded by 
large mango-trees and bordered by dense 
hedges, we drew up at last before the spa- 
cious mansion of the Vive sugar estate. Mr. 
Clerc — a good-looking, frank-faced gentle- 
man about forty years of age — came out 
with a lighted candle to meet us, gave us a 



most cordial greeting, said that he had heard 
of our coming, that our rooms were ready, 
and that dinner was waiting. Twenty minutes 
later we were all seated around the dining- 
table, drinking " cyclone " wine (the vintage 
of the Martinique cyclone year) and discuss- 
ing that all-absorbing topic of conversation, 
the volcano. 

The eruption of the 20th, Mr. Clerc 
said, had completed the destruction of St. 
Pierre, and had thrown thousands of tons of 
ashes over the Vive plantation ; but since 
that time nothing had happened. A new 
crater had opened in the gorge of the river 
Falaise, about three miles and a half from 
Vive, but its activity had been intermittent, 
and it had done nothing so far but send an 
occasional flood of boiling water and mud 
down into the Capot — the river on which 
Vive is situated. Morne Rouge was still 
accessible, but, owing to its close proximity 
to the main crater, it was regarded as a dan- 
gerous place, and most of its inhabitants had 
fled. Basse Pointe, a village on the north- 
eastern coast, about two miles and a half 
from Vive, had just been partially destroyed 



by a sudden flood of mud, water and stones, 
but had not yet been wholly abandoned. 
Many people had fled from Ajoupa Bouillon, 
a village higher up on the volcano than 
Vive and nearer to the Falaise crater ; but 
the priest and the mayor were still there, and 
gendarmes patrolled the road as far as Morne 

After a general discussion of the situation, 
we decided to begin our study of the volcano 
by making an inspection of Basse Point, 
where one phase of Pelee's destructive activ- 
ity was well shown, and where we could get 
an idea, Mr. Clerc said, of the floods of 
water, mud and stones that had swept away 
the Guerin sugar-mill, destroyed Precheur, 
and devastated the whole western slope of 
the mountain. If the weather should then 
prove to be favorable, we intended to cross 
the southeastern flank of Pelee, visit Morne 
Rouge, and go down as far as possible in the 
track of the scorching hurricane that rushed 
across the valley of the Roxelane on the 8th 
of May and destroyed the city of St. Pierre. 
In this way we should get views of the 
volcano from three sides, and see the results 



of its activity in several widely separated 

It was so dark when we went out-of-doors 
and looked in the direction of Pelee before 
going to bed that night that we could see 
little or nothing. The sky was overcast, and 
the volcano seemed to be hidden from base 
to summit in a black mantle of clouds. Not 
a sound could be heard except a faint rush of 
water from the river Capot and the regular 
pounding of the trade-wind surf on the beach. 

Soon after daylight Saturday morning we 
were awakened by the ringing of a bell in the 
adjacent sugar-mill, and, dressing hastily, 
we went out to take a look at the Vive 
plantation. Before the rain of ashes from 
Pelee began, the estate of Mr. Clerc, with its 
mango-trees, blossoming shrubs, scarlet flam- 
boyants, hibiscus hedges, vine-draped walls, 
climbing roses, gardens and geometrical flow- 
er-beds, must have made a striking and beau- 
tiful tropical picture. It had the ocean, with 
a long line of snowy surf, on one side, and 
the high, forest-clad peaks of Carbet and 
Pelee on the other ; cool streams from the 
hills ran through it ; cane-fields gave it a set- 



ting of vivid green ; and between the two- 
story house, with its broad shady veranda, 
and the avenue of hibiscus-bushes that led 
through the grove of mango-trees to the 
main road, there was a flower-garden of formal 
beds which must once have been a mass of 
rich and glowing color. When we first saw 
the place, however, everything had been 
ruined. The walls of the house looked as if 
they had been splashed and spattered with a 
mixture of mucilage and Portland cement 
which had trickled down in muddy lines and 
then dried ; volcanic dust had been shoveled, 
like snow, oflT the veranda and lay in heaps 
beside the walks; the ground under the 
mango-trees was covered with branches 
broken from the trunks by the weight of 
volcanic sleet ; the flower-beds were buried 
in grayish mud which had the appearance 
and consistency of half-dried clay ; the vines 
were scorched and blackened as if they had 
been subjected to a zero frost; nearly half 
the leaves had fallen from the breadfruit-trees, 
those that still clung to the twigs were so 
plastered with the Portland-cement mixture 
that they looked withered and half dead ; and 





the whole landscape had an appearance of 
gray ruin and desolation that it is hard to de- 
scribe, and must be even harder for the read- 
er to imagine. It is probably not an exag- 
geration to say that upon every square mile 
of the Vive plantation there had fallen thou- 
sands of tons of pulverized rock in the form 
of fine, gray, powdery dust — and yet Vive 
was five miles from the main crater of the 
volcano, and in the outer penumbra of the 
deadly shadow cast by its ash-laden clouds. 




ON the morning after our arrival at 
Vive we had, for the first time, a 
clear view of the volcano from the 
eastern side, and were able, with the aid of 
a field-glass and a fairly good French map, 
to get something like a correct idea of its 
topography and contour. 

Mont Pelee, with its radiating buttresses, 
occupies the whole northwestern end of 

Martinique, from the river Capot to the 
ocean. If a curved line were drawn across 

the island from St. Pierre to Vive, in such a 
manner as to include the valley of the Qipot, 
it would form, with the ocean boundary, a 
nearly perfect circle, about ten miles in dia- 
meter, with the main crater of the volcano 




near its centre, and a series of alternating 
ridges and valleys radiating on all sides to the 
periphery. If this circle were regarded as a 
huge wagon wheel, the main crater would oc- 
cupy nearly the position of the hub ; the di- 
vergent aretes or buttresses would represent 
the spokes ; and most of the neighboring 
settlements would stand at short intervals 
around the rim. 

If all the ridges or buttresses were straight, 
and if they had a regular and uniform slope 
from the main crater to the periphery of the 
base, the volcano would have the shape of a 
low cone, with a gradient of about one in sixl 
Inasmuch, however, as some of these aretes 
are very irregular in contour, keeping nearly 
if not quite up to the level of the crater for 
half a mile or more, and then falling in lines 
that are convex rather than concave, the 
mountain looks more like a " hog-back" 
than a cone. From Vive it has the appear- 
ance of a great mountainous ridge, whose 
contour^lines are not generally steep, and 
whose crest, seen in profile, is a slightly in- 
cline plane. From its highest point, which 
seems to be north of the main crater, it slopes 



gently southward for three-quarters of a mile, 
and then falls rather abruptly to the long, 
wavy line of the watershed that separates the 
upper Capot from the Riviere des Peres and 
the Roxelane. 

High up on the volcano, at the heads of 
the diverging aretes, rise a dozen or more 
streams which tumble down to the sea on all 
sides of the mountain, falling very rapidly at 
first in deeply eroded gorges, shaggy with 
tropical vegetation, and then flowing more 
slowly through open valleys whose slopes 
are covered with a green carpet of young 

About a mile and a half east of the main 
crater, in the gorge of the wild mountain 
torrent known as the Falaise, there is an in- 
termittent sub-crater, which throws out at 
intervals clouds of steam more or less 
densely charged with dust, and in the gorge 
of the Riviere Blanche, on the southwestern 
slope of the mountain, there is a second 
vent, which seems to be connected with the 
main crater by a long fissure, and which is a 
more dangerous opening, perhaps, than 
either of the others. 



deep with compacted ashes, through which 
wrinkle-like furrows had been out by down- 
rushing water ; the upper slopes, near the 
central part of the crest, were strewn with 
stones, boulders, and volcanic bombs; the 
northern end of the ridge was almost as white 
as if soda or salt had been sifted over it ; and 
above the main crater stood a great pillar of 
cloud a thousand feet in height, which bent 
a little to leeward with the steady trade-wind, 
and dropped a dark, rain-like shower of ashes 
over the village of Precheur. The whole 
mountain looked bare, desolate, and threat- 

We spent most of our first day at Vive 
indoors. The sky after breakfast became 
overcast ; heavy storm-clouds gathered about 
the summit of the volcano ; and the weather 
looked so unpromising that we decided not to 
attempt anything more difficult than a short 
drive to the village of Basse Pointe, which 
had just been deluged, and partly destroyed, 
by a flood of water and mud which rushed 
down upon it suddenly from the volcano. 
Mr. Clerc volunteered to accompany us in 
the capacity of driver and guide ; mules and 





a light two-seated carriage were ordered, and 
in half an hour we were sweeping around the 
curves of the hard, beautifully kept road 
which skirts the surf-beaten coast from Trinite 
to Grande Riviere. 

Groups and files of fugitives from the 
northern villages began to pass us as soon as 
we came out upon the highway. Barefooted, 
bareheaded negroes in dirty cotton shirts and 
drawers were driving southward unyoked 
oxen with coils of heavy iron chain around 
their horns ; women who had pinned bright- 
colored paper pictures of the Virgin Mary 
over their hearts to protect them from the 
volcano, but who seemed to have more faith 
in their own legs than in the Madonna, 
passed us from time to time with headloads 
of furniture, kitchen utensils, bedding, or 
food ; children trotted soberly behind their 
parents with wooden trays of fruit on their 
heads, or pet chickens, kittens, or puppies 
in their arms ; and now and then a mounted 
planter in helmet and white duck rode past 
on his way to Trinite or Fort de France. 
All were endeavoring, apparently, to get out 
of range of a volcano that had shown its 



ability and readiness to kill at a distance of 
five miles with stones, mud, fire, lightning, 
steam, ashes, and floods. 

When we reached Basse Pointe and saw 
the destruction that had been wrought by the 
flood of water and the semi-liquid avalanche 
of mud and boulders that had rushed down 
the stream on which the village is situated, 
we felt more inclined than ever to sympathize 
with the fugitives and to excuse even the 
weak faith of the women with the paper pic- 
tures of the Madonna pinned over their 
hearts. Nobody could be expected to live in 
the shadow of a mountain that might at any 
moment let loose, somewhere up in the 
clouds, a Johnstown flood of mud and water 
loaded with ten-ton masses of volcanic rock. 
Where the torrent came from that swept 
through Basse Pointe I do not know ; but it 
carried away trees and houses, strewed the 
bed of the stream with enormous boulders 
torn out of the side of the volcano, and left 
in the lower stories of the houses that it did 
not carry away a deposit of soft grayish mud 
four or five feet deep. 

After Mont Pelee began to show signs of 



a volcano as hot as Mont Pelee. If the water 
got into the mountain at or below the sea- 
level, it would have to be lifted to heights of 
from 2,000 to 4,000 feet before it could flow 
out of the craters, and, meanwhile, it would 
probably be converted into steam by the in- 
tense heat of the containing walls and of the 
molten or incandescent rock at the base of 
the chimney. There might happen to be 
subterranean reservoirs of water in the in- 
terior of the volcano, or in the earth under 
it, and they might be disrupted by volcanic 
action ; but it is not probable that the num- 
ber of such reservoirs would equal the num- 
ber of floods that have occurred on the slopes 
of Mont Pelee since the volcano became ac- 
tive. It seems to me more reasonable, there- 
fore, on the whole, to suppose that the floods 
originate outside the craters and are due to 
cloud-bursts and extraordinary rainfalls. 

Tropical storms that have no connection 
whatever with volcanoes, and that, from a 
meteorological point of view, are perfectly 
normal, often cause tremendous floods in nar- 
row valleys that happen to lie between ex- 
tensive watersheds, and if to the natural down- 



pour o^ such a storm were added the pre- 
cipitation due to rapid condensation of im- 
mense volumes of steam from the crater of 
the volcano, the result might be a sudden 
deluge that would sweep thousands of tons 
of ashes off the slopes of the watershed, tear 
hundreds of old volcanic boulders out of the 
loosely compacted, cindery sides of the moun- 
tain, and then rush down the nearest drain- 
age-channel like a huge tidal wave of liquid 
mud and stones, carrying everything be- 
fore it 

The objections made by the natives to this 
explanation of the disasters at Precheur and 
Basse Pointe are, first, that the floods were 
not preceded nor accompanied by great 
storms : second, that storms severe enough to 
produce such eflFects were unknown before 
the volcano became active ; and, third, that a 
storm due to general meteorological conditions 
would aflfect the whole mountain and not 
merely a single gorge or valley on one side 
of it. 

It is quite possible, however, that there 
may be cloud-bursts, or heavy rain, on the 
summit without any general storm. The 



were falling all along the line of the coast 
from St. Pierre to Precheur. An occasional 
detonation could be heard in the direction of 
the mountain, but there was no other sign or 
forewarning of the impending catastrophe. 
About eight o'clock, with a rending, roaring 
sound, a great cloud of black smoke appeared 
suddenly on the southwestern face of the vol- 
cano near its summit, and rushed swiftly 
down in the direction of St. Pierre as if it 
were smoke from the discharge of a colossal 
piece of artillery. There was no sharp, 
thunderous explosion when the cloud ap- 
peared, nor was it preceded or followed by an 
outburst of flame ; but as it rolled like a 
great torrent of black fog down the mountain 
slope there was a continuous roar of half- 
blended staccato beats of varying intensity, 
something like the throbbing, pulsating roar 
of a Gatling-gun battery going into action. 
The time occupied by the descent of this vol- 
canic tornado-cloud was not more, Mr. Clerc 
thinks, than two or three minutes ; and if so, 
it moved with a velocity of between ninety 
and a hundred and thirty-five miles an hour. 
It struck the western end of Mont Parnasse 



about half a mile from the place where Mr. 
Clerc was standing; swept directly over St. 
Pierre, wrecking and setting fire to the build- 
ings as it passed, and then went diagonally 
out to sea, scorching the cocoanut palms and 
touching with an invisible torch a few inflam- 
mable houses at the extreme northern end of 
the village of Carbet. 

It began almost immediately to grow dark 
— probably as a result of the mushrooming 
out of the immense, ash-laden column of 
vapor thrown heavenward from the main 
crater — ^and in ten or fifteen minutes the only 
light to be seen was a faint glow that came 
through the falling ashes from the burning 
ruins of St. Pierre. It was so dark that Mr. 
Clerc could make sure of the presence and 
safety of his wife and children only by groping 
for them and touching them with his hands. 
He could not see even the outlines of their 
figures. In twenty minutes or half an hour, 
a little light began to filter through the 
inky canopy of volcanic dust overhead, and it 
became possible to move about ; but the land- 
scape was still obscured by falling ashes mixed 
with rain, and Mount Pelee had wrapped it- 



self from base to summit in a black mantle 
of vapor. Appalled by the frightful volcanic 
hurricane, the Egyptian darkness, the glow 
of the burning city, and the mystery of the 
whole terrible catastrophe, Mr. Clerc fled 
with his family and friends to a place of 
greater safety in the interior of the country. 
At the earliest opportunity he sent his wife 
and children to one of the neighboring islands 
— I think Guadeloupe — ^visited the ruins of 
St. Pierre, where many of his relatives and 
nearly all his dearest friends lay buried under 
thousands of tons of stones from shattered 
walls, and finally returned alone to his ash- 
powdered plantation at Vive. 

That Mr. Clerc was naturally a man of 
great courage appears not only from the fact 
that, after such an experience, he returned to 
his estate, which was well within the zone of 
danger, but from the further fact that, with 
his overseer, Mr. Chancel, he climbed Mont 
Pelee to the dry bed of the old crater-lake, 
and ascertained the location of the new sum- 
mit-fissure through which the volcano was 
then discharging. He regarded his own res- 
idence, however, as a dangerous place to 



stay at night, on account of the lowness of its 
situation, the proximity of the Falaise crater, 
and the possibility that a volcanic deluge 
from that part of the mountain might sweep 
down the valley of the Capot and overwhelm 
his house, just as the torrent of boiling water 
and mud overwhelmed the sugar-mill of 
Guerin in the valley of the Riviere Blanche, 
He, therefore, went every night to sleep in 
the house of a friend about two miles away, 
at the end of a high spur thrown out to the 
northward from the Carbet peaks. He had 
once saved himself, his wife, and his children 
by taking to the hills ; and his escape on 
that occasion was too recent to have been 
forgotten. His housekeeper. Mademoiselle 
Marie — a gentlewoman of dauntless intrepid- 
ity — his overseer, Mr. Chancel, and all the 
servants of the household, remained with us 
at Vive. 

When Mr. Clerc bade us good-night on 
Saturday, it was understood that if the 
weather should prove favorable we would all 
drive the next day over the southeastern 
flank of Mont Pelee to Morne Rouge, and 
then go as far as possible down the track of 



the volcanic hurricane which swept across the 
road near the Grande Reduit on its way to 
St. Pierre. 

Sunday morning dawned clear ; the vol- 
cano seemed to be quiescent, and at seven 
o'clock we started in two carriages for Morne 
Rouge. The road ran for a short distance 
along the right bank of the Capot, crossed 
the gray, muddy stream on a stone bridge, 
and then wound upward over gentle slopes, 
covered with uncut sugar-cane, toward the 
village of Ajoupa Bouillon. The scenery 
did not begin to be really mountainous in 
character until we reached the Riviere Falaise, 
which comes down to the Capot through a 
deep, wild gorge bounded by the high aretes 
known as the Calebasse and the Morne 
Balais. From the bridge over this stream 
we ascended steadily through the half-deserted 
village of Ajoupa Bouillon to a height of 
eight hundred or one thousand feet, and 
then began to go around the mountain, across 
an interminable series of gorges and aretes 
which run steeply down the Calebasse water- 
shed to the Capot. The scenery in this part 
of the route was splendidly wild and pictur- 



esque, the road running back and forth in long, 
narrow, horseshoe curves around the heads of 
profoundly deep ravines, which were filled 
with palms, arborescent ferns, wild bananas, 
delicate plumes of bamboo, breadfruit-trees 
hung with lianas and festooned with vines, 
and a tropical undergrowth of almost in- 
describable luxuriance. Everything, how- 
ever, seemed to have been scorched and 
withered by the hot breath of the volcano. 
The vines were almost bare ; the blackened 
fronds of the tree-ferns hung limp and lifeless 
from their slender trunks; the road was 
strewn with the big, withered leaves of the 
breadfruit-trees ; the broad, ragged foliage of 
the bananas had turned brown ; and the lux- 
uriant undergrowth had been plastered, 
broken, and beaten down by a heavy sleet- 
storm of volcanic ashes. Almost all of the 
foliage from which the ashes had been washed 
by rain looked brown or black, as if it had 
been scorched by fire or nipped by a zero 

Half or three-quarters of a mile from 
Morne Rouge we emerged from the dense 
tropical forest that covers the middle slopes 



of the volcano on the southeastern side, and 
ten minutes later drove up past a life-sized 
crucifix on the high, breezy divide that separ- 
ates the Atlantic watershed from that of the 
Caribbean. From this point of view we could 
see the flat blue plain of the ocean from St. 
Pierre almost to Precheur, with the smoking 
crater and ash-whitened aretes of Mont 
Pelee at our right, the steep forest-clad peaks 
of Carbet on our left, and the spire of the 
Morne Rouge church in the near foreground, 
directly ahead. 

Driving through a long street of ash- 
plastered and abandoned houses, we turned 
in to the residence of the cure, which stood 
beside the large church, near the centre of the 
village. Father Mary, a middle-aged man 
with gray eyes and a fresh complexion, came 
out in cassock and incongruous white cork 
helmet to meet us ; gave us a cordial welcome 
and led us into the refectory of the parish 
house, where we all sat down at a big table 
half covered with a white cloth, to take re- 
freshments, discuss the volcano, and exchange 
items of Martinique news. 

The cure did not look at all like a man 



\ -■ 





who had been subjected to long continued 
nervous strain, or who had been rendered ap- 
prehensive by weeks of imminent danger. 
On the contrary he seemed as buoyant and 
light-hearted as a frolicsome boy; laughing 
and joking with Mr. Clerc and Mr. Chancel ; 
and exclaiming in feigned astonishment when 
Mr. Varian and I declined the stiff drinks of 
rum that he poured out for us, "What! 
No rum ? Is this, then, a temperance so- 
ciety?" But a glance at his f^ce when it 
was serious and in repose showed that he was 
a man of character and courage. Some min- 
isters of God, living in imminent danger near 
the crater of an active volcano, might have 
become morbid and gloomy in the presence 
of what seemed to be manifestations of Divine 
wrath ; but Father Mary's nature was too 
brave, sane and cheerful to be warped by fear 
or gloomy superstition. He might not be 
able to reconcile the destruction of St. Pierre 
with the providence of a loving and merciful 
Father ; but he trusted where he could not 
understand; discharged faithfully all his 
duties as a priest, a Christian and a man ; 
and lived, as he had always lived, a brave, 



cheerful, natural life, even in the threatening 
shadow of death. Vicar-General Parel was 
mistaken when he wrote to the bishop of the 
diocese " Pere Mary has at length left 
Morne Rouge, being the last to abandon the 
place/' * Pere Mary never left his post 
of duty. 

After refreshing ourselves with a light 
breakfast, we all went out at Father Mary*s 
suggestion, to take a look at the village, and 
at the mountain from that point of view. 

The southwestern slope of Mont Pelee 
as seen from Morne Rouge, consists of a 
series of high wooded ridges or aretes, with 
deep intervening valleys, running down to 
the sea from the Calebasse divide. Before 
the volcano became active, the bottoms of 
these valleys were covered with truck farms, 
garden-plots or plantations of cane; and 
there were little nooks or patchwork squares 
of cultivation, here and there, even on the 
wooded slopes of the aretes ; but the whole 
country, when we saw it, looked bare, deso- 
late, and gray, The forests were apparently 

* Century Magazine, August, 1902, p. 617, 



dead, the luxuriant undergrowth was leafless, 
and a deep layer of rain-compacted ashes 
gave a sterile, desert-like aspect to a land- 
scape that was once as green and fair as any 
in Martinique. 

Before Mont Pelee became active, Morne 
Rouge was one of the most beautiful villages 
on the islan^. Situated at a height of 1400 
feet, on the crest of the divide between the 
Atlantic and the Caribbean, it overlooked 
the ocean on both sides, and commanded a 
magnificent view, not only of the volcano, 
but of the Carbet peaks, the rich, fertile 
valley of Champ Flore, and the green, forest- 
clad mornes beyond the Capot and on the 
headwaters of the Roxelane. It was, as the 
cure said, " a real Garden of Eden," set in a 
natural cyclorama of blue water, verdant 
hills, and cloud-capped volcanic peaks. It 
had long been a favorite place of resort for the 
citizens of St. Pierre, many of whom had 
country villas there, and the commune of 
which it was the centre had a population of 
nearly 5000 souls. At the time of our visit, 
its beautiful gardens had been ruined by ashes ; 
volcanic dust lay deep in its streets ; niner 



tenths of its houses were closed and empty ; 
and it had less than 200 inhabitants. 
Nearly all who could get away fled after the 
catastrophe of May 8th ; but Father Mary 
had a little asylum or house of refuge there 
for the old, poor, and infirm of his parish, and 
as it was impossible for these helpless people 
to escape, he, with a few of the bolder spirits 
of the villiage, stood by them, watching, with 
steady and unfaltering courage, eruptions that 
devastated the neighboring slopes of the 
mountain ; swept the village with storms of 
ashes ; shook its houses with the thunder of 
subterranean explosions ; set the skies ablaze 
with volcanic lightning, and threatened 
Morne Rouge with the fate of St. Pierre. 
Several times between the 8th of May and 
the 1st of June, the terror-stricken popula- 
tion of northern Martinique fled from the 
volcano en masse ; but Father Mary, far 
inside the danger line, stood by his helpless 
and frightened people, expecting to die but 
incapable of shirking his duty or deserting 
his post. When I remember how exposed 
Morne Rouge was ; how near it stood to the 
main crater, and how terrifying some of the 



eruptions must have appeared from that 
point of view, the devoted priest in his worn, 
shabby cassock, standing by his aged and 
feeble parishioners and encouraging the 
handful of villagers who remained to help 
him, seems to me a really impressive and 
heroic figure. 



NEXT to Father Mary, the most in- 
teresting person in Morne Rouge, 
at the time of our visit, was Au- 
guste Ciparis, a negro criminal who lived 
through the destruction of St. Pierre in a 
dungeon of the city jail. We had heard of 
this man in Fort de France, and had been 
told that he was the sole survivor of the 
great catastrophe ; but we had not been able 
to find anyone who had actually seen him, or 
who knew where he was, and we had finally 
come to regard him as the product of some 
newspaper man's imagination. Father Mary, 
however, assured us that he was a real person, 
and that he had been brought to Morne Rouge 
four days after the disaster by two negroes who 



had accidentally found him in the ruins of 
the city. Of course we wanted to get a state- 
ment of his unique experience, and after we 
had looked around the village a little, we all 
went to see him. We found him in one of 
the bare, fly-infested rooms of an abandoned 
wooden dwelling-house on the main street, 
which the cure had turned into a sort of 
lazaret As there was no physician, surgeon, 
or pharmacy in the place, the unfortunate 
prisoner had had no treatment, and the air of 
the small, hot room was so heavy and foul 
with the oflFensive odor of his neglected 
burns that I could hardly force myself to 
breathe it. He was sitting stark naked, on 
the dirty striped mattress of a small wooden 
cot, with a bloody sheet thrown over his 
head like an Arab burnoose and gathered in 
about the loins. He had been more fright- 
fully burned, I think, than any man I had 
ever seen. His face, strangely enough, had 
escaped injury, and his hair had not even 
been scorched ; but there were terrible burns 
on his back and legs, and his badly swollen 
feet and hands were covered with yellow, 
oflFensive matter which had no resemblance 



whatever to human skin or flesh. The 
burns were apparently very deep— so deep 
that blood oozed from them — and to my un- 
professional eye they looked as if they might 
have been made by hot steam. 

When asked to describe all that happened 
at the time when he received these burns, 
Ciparis said that the cell he occupied in the 
St. Pierre prison was an underground dun- 
geon, which had no other window than a 
grated aperture in the upper part of the door. 
On the morning of May 8, while he was 
waiting for breakfast, it suddenly grew very 
dark ; and almost immediately afterward hot 
air, mixed with fine ashes, came in through 
the door-grating and burned him. He rushed 
and jumped in agony about the cell and cried 
for help; but there was no answer. He heard 
no noise, saw no fire, and smelled nothing 
except " what he thought was his own body, 
burning." The intense heat lasted only a 
moment, and during that time he breathed 
as little as possible. There was no smoke 
in the cell and the hot air came in through 
the door-grating without any noticeable rush 
or blast. He had on, at the time, hat, shirt, 



and trousers, but no shoes. His clothing 
did not take fire, and yet his back was very 
severely burned under his shirt. The water 
in his cell did not get hot — or, at least, it 
was not hot when he first took a drink, after 
the catastrophe. 

We questioned him closely with regard to 
sounds and smells ; but he continued to in- 
sist that he heard no explosion or loud noise 
of any kind, and that there was no percepti- 
ble odor of gas or sulphur in his cell. Hot 
air, mixed with dust, came in at the grated 
window in the upper part of the door and 
burned him ; and that, he said, was all there 
was of it. For a long time he groaned with 
pain, and cried at intervals, " Help ! Save 
me !" but no one answered, and he did not 
hear a sound again until the following Sun- 
day, nearly four days after the catastrophe. 
Then he faintly heard human voices above 
his head, and renewed his cries for help. 
Somebody shouted, " Who's that ? Where 
are you ? " 

" I'm down here in the dungeon of the 
jail," he replied. " Help ! Save me ! Get 
me out ! " 



corded here, just as it stands in my note- 
book, without trying to edit it, or work it up 
into a " picturesque " narrative. 

Ciparis, who was a strong young negro 
about twenty-five years of age, impressed me 
as an uneducated man, of average intelligence, 
whose natural temperament was stolid rather 
than excitable. He answered all our ques- 
tions simply and quietly, without making any 
attempt to exaggerate or to heighten the ef- 
fect of his narrative by embroidering it with 
fanciful and marvelous details. He heard no 
explosions or detonations ; saw no flames ; 
smelled no sulphurous gas ; and had no feel- 
ing of suffocation. He was simply burned 
by hot air and hot ashes which came into his 
cell through the door grating. What hap- 
pened outside he did not pretend to know ; 
but his testimony with regard to what hap- 
pened inside could not be shaken by any 
amount of cross-examination, and I shall 
have occasion to refer to it when I come to a 
consideration of the nature and causes of the 
St. Pierre catastrophe. Thanks to Mr. Jac- 
caci, who sent to the Military Hospital in 
Fort de France for linseed oil, limewater, 



sloping buttress brought us to the bold prom- 
ontory of the Grande Reduit, where the 
buttress ends suddenly in a high, steep bluff, 
and the road, turning suddenly upon itself, 
descends four or five hundred feet, in the 
double curve of a reversed letter S, to the 
valley of the Roxelane. A little chapel and 
three or four deserted houses stood near the 
road at the left, and on the highest part of 
the bluff, facing Mont Pelee, was a life-sized, 
tinted figure of Christ crucified, which was 
completely covered, from head to foot, with 
a sun-dried plas^r of volcanic ashes. It 
looked as if a fire engine had been throwing 
on it a stream of sticky mucilage thickened 
with Portland cement 

Getting out of our carriages, we walked 
passed the crucifix and through a thicket of 
leafless bushes to the extreme western end of 
the bluff, from which an unobstructed view 
could be had of the tornado track where it 
crossed the once beautiful valley of the Roxe- 
lane. A more impressive picture of ruin and 
desolation it would be impossible to imagine. 
The valley looked as if it had first been swept 
by a frightful hurricane that had strewn it 



with trees, branches and the fragments of 
wrecked houses, and had then been over- 
whelmed by a Johnstown flood, which, after 
sweeping the immense masses of wreckage 
into heaps, had finally subsided, leaving every- 
thing covered with a thick layer of gray mud. 
Scattered here and there over the surface of 
this mud were bodies of dead men, carcasses 
of mules, wheels of dismembered carts, big 
iron kettles, pieces of machinery from some 
wrecked sugar mill, timbers, boulders, roofs 
of houses, and great windrows of leafless, up- 
rooted trees, which had been swept down 
into the valley from the slopes above. 

The western end of the Grande Reduit 
was just on the edge, apparently, of the hurri- 
cane's path. Some of the huts near the 
chapel had been injured, but the chapel itself 
was intact ; the big crucifix was still standing, 
and within a radius of forty or fifty yards 
there were a number of trees that had not 
been touched. Behind one of the houses, 
however, we found the carcass of a mule, and 
a short distance down the road leading to the 
valley we came upon an overturned, wrecked 
carriage, half buried in a pile of broken-oflf 





fifty yards from the carriage, behind one of 
the palm-shacks on the crest of the hill. 

The effects of the volcanic discharge, in 
this case seem to have been such as would 
have been produced by a hot steam-blast of 
high volocity but brief duration. If Messrs. 
Simonut and Lassere had been struck by the 
edge of a steam discharge from an exploding 
boiler, their bodies would probably have 
been scalded under their clothing in precisely 
the same way, and without injury to the 
clothing itself; while if they had been burned 
by flame or incandescent matter, their cloth- 
ing and the light top of the carriage would 
certainly have shown some traces of fire. As 
they were on the extreme outer edge of the 
blast, the steam was doubtless mixed to some 
extent with air ; and the heat although great 
enough to scald flesh, was not intense enough 
to ignite clothing or scorch wood. 

We drove down into the valley of the Roxe- 
lane without finding any impassable obstruc- 
tion ; but a quarter of a mile beyond the 
base of the Grande Reduit we were stopped 
by a barrier of immense uprooted trees, 
which had been blown or washed upon the 



road, and which made further progress in a 
wheeled vehicle impossible. Leaving our 
carriages there, we walked down the hurricane 
track towards St. Pierre, through a chaos of 
demolished houses, uprooted trees, volcanic 
boulders, broken tiles, smashed crockery, 
twisted iron bedsteads, sheets of metallic 
roofing, fire-scorched remains of pianos, cart- 
wheels, brass chandeliers, farm implements, 
bronze statuettes, and ash-covered wreckage 
of every imaginable description. Houses, 
solidly built of stone and cement, had been 
torn to pieces and scattered as children's 
play-houses of kindergarten blocks would be 
torn to pieces by the discharge of a thirteen- 
inch gun. Absolutely nothing of human 
construction or erection seemed to have been 
strong enough or solid enough to withstand 
the impact of that tremendous blast. 

Half or three-quarters of a mile from the 
Grande Reduit, Mr. Clerc stopped in front 
of a low shapeless mound of ash-plastered 
building-stones, and, in a voice trembling 
with emotion, said : " This was the country 
house of Senator Knight's father; I knew 
him well." No one would have imagined 



that there had ever been a house there. It 
looked like a mass of stones heaped together 
at random and half buried by a sleet-storm 
of ashes. 

In this part of the Roxelane valley there 
had been a large number of country houses 
and villas belonging to wealthy residents of 
St. Pierre. Some of them stood on natural 
or artificial mounds between the road and the 
river, and others on high terraces cut in the 
hillside above the road and supported by 
massive retaining walls of heavy masonry. 
Most of these houses, apparently, had been 
made of stone rubble ; and when the aerial 
battering-ram of the tornado struck them, 
they burst asunder, went to pieces, and 
fell in avalanches of loose stones upon the 
road below, covering it and blocking it up 
so that in many places there was no trace of 
a road left, and we had to pick our way 
across the heaps of debris as best we could. 

In the area swept by this volcanic hurri- 
cane, as in the tracks of many of our western 
tornadoes, there were fragile objects of one 
sort or another, that had miraculously es- 
caped destruction. Against a fragment of a 



wall, in one place, for example, I found hang- 
ing uninjured and undisturbed, a thin plaster 
bas-relief of Christ before Pilate. The build- 
ing had been so completely demolished that 
I could not tell, from a mere inspection of 
the ruins, whether it had been a private resi- 
dence or a church ; but the frail bas-relief, 
which might have been broken to pieces by 
a blow with a lead-pencil, had sustained no in- 
jury whatever. In another place, in what had 
apparently been the back-yard of a country 
house, I saw a wooden cage of three com- 
partments faced with wire net-work, which 
contained the remains of two pet animals — a 
mongoose and a small bantam chicken. Both 
had been killed, doubtless, by the heat of the 
blast ; but the feathers of the chicken had 
not been scorched, and the cage, although 
covered with ashes, had not been broken or 

The ruin and desolation in this valley 
would have been impressive and terrible 
enough, even if not related in any way to 
human activities and human existence ; but 
most of these wrecked houses had been the 
homes of the living, and were now cairns of 



stones heaped up over the remains of the 
dead. The hot, breezeless air was heavy 
and fetid with the stench of decaying bodies, 
and every now and then we came upon a 
swollen, blackened corpse lying out in the 
open or half buried in an ash-cemented pile 
of stones. In two or three places, on the 
road, or beside it, I saw human bodies that 
had been rolled, tumbled, and smashed by 
the tornado until they were nothing but 
huddled-up masses of torn, bloody clothing 
and lacerated flesh, out of which were stick- 
ing the splintered remains of arm and thigh 
bones. Poor Mr. Clerc, who had been en- 
tertained in many of the houses whose ruins 
we passed, and who knew personally nearly 
all of the people in this valley, became so 
overwrought at last with grief, nervous ex- 
citement, and the horror of the environment 
that he broke down in a fit of sobbing and 
walked away from the party until he could 
recover his self-control. 

Half-way down from the Grande Reduit 
to St. Pierre a small stream came into the 
tornado valley from the south, and just at 
the junction of this stream with the Roxelane 



there stood, before the eruption of May 8, a 
pretty suburban village known as the Village 
of the Three Bridges. At the time of our 
visit it had been completely wrecked and de- 
stroyed, with the exception of four or five 
houses which stood in the mouth of the 
lateral ravine under the shelter of a high 
bluflf. The front door of the first one we 
came to was open, and a rocking-chair was 
standing out on the piazza. Just inside the 
door, on a narrow cot-bed, lay, in a perfectly 
natural position, the figure of a dead man. 
He was plastered from head to foot with 
ashes, but, in places where rain had blown in 
through the door' or window and washed 
the ashes oflT, I could see the skin of his 
neck, face and hands. Flies were crawling 
all over him, and from a wound in his head 
blood had run down on the mattress and 
dripped from there to the floor, where it had 
made a little pool. There were no footprints 
in the ashes, and the house had not been 
entered by any one since the catastrophe of 
May 8. The man had evidently been killed 
instantly ; but whether by heat, by noxious 
gas, or by a volcanic stone, it was impossible 



to determine. All that we could be certain 
of was that he was lying on that cot when the 
hurricane swept across the valley and that he 
never m®ved afterward. 

In the next room there were a man, a 
woman, and a child ; the man lying on the 
floor, face downward, with his arms stretched 
out, and the woman and child at a little dis- 
tance, huddled together with their arms 
under them. All were in such a state of 
decomposition that they would have been 
wholly unrecognizable. The adjoining house 
was also full of dead, but they were so en- 
crusted with ashes that it was impossible to 
determine age, sex, or color. Just across 
the stream, close to the bluflT, was a pretty 
two-story country house with a good-sized 
front yard which had been filled with geomet- 
rical flower-beds and blossoming shrubs. 
We explored it from top to bottom, but 
found nothing alive in it except a huge black 
tarantula, four or five inches across, which 
ran out of a crevice over one of the second- 
story doors. The venomous insect had sur- 
vived where all the higher forms of life had 



self-controlled at all times ; but Mr. Clerc 
was nervously overwrought, and Mr. Varian 
admitted to me that those silent houses, filled 
with ash-plastered corpses, were the " spook- 
iest " places he had ever seen. 

Tired, faint, and sickened with the stench 
of dead bodies, we finally turned our faces 
homeward, climbed slowly up the valley 
over the stone-piles of wrecked houses, and 
drove back to Vive. 

When I went to bed that night, I found 
it utterly impossible to sleep. The atmos- 
phere of the room seemed to be pervaded 
by a faint, corpse-like odor, and I imag- 
ined that I could see a gray ash-plastered 
figure with flies crawling over it in every 
dark corner of the room. Satisfied, at last, 
that the odor of death could not be wholly 
imaginary, I got up, struck a light, and 
began to examine in turn the things that I 
had brought back from the tornado valley. 
A little etched calabash that I had picked 
up in one of the houses of the village of 
Trois Fonts proved to be so saturated with 
the odor of a rotting corpse that it had 
tainted the air of the whole room. I put it 



out of the window on the roof of the piazza, 
extinguished my light, and again went to 
bed ; but I had a restless, feverish night, and 
began, for the first time, to regard that in- 
fernal volcano with a feeling of dread. 




AS a result of heat, fatigue, sleepless- 
ness, and the drinking of unwhole- 
some, ash-contaminated water, we all 
felt rather weak and depressed on the morn- 
ing after our return from the tornado valley 
of the Roxelane, and when Mr. Jaccaci, with 
unconquerable energy, proposed an expedi- 
tion to the sub-crater of the Falaise, Mr. 
Varian and I had to admit that we were not 
physically equal to it. Varian, who was 
really ill, went to bed again after breakfast ; 
and I was afraid that if I continued to expose 
myself, day after day, to the hot tropical sun- 
shine, I should bring on another attack of 
the low malarial fever from which I had al- 
ready been suffering at intervals for two or 




three years. We all wanted, moreover, to 
attempt an ascent of the volcano the next 
day, and it seemed to Mr. Varian and me 
that we should do better if we reserved all 
the strength we had for that undertaking. 
Mr. Clerc, however, was apparently ready if 
not anxious to go, and a party consisting of 
Mr. Jaccaci, Mr. Clerc, Mr. Chancel, and a 
n^egro journalist named Confiant, who had 
^^been spending a day or two at Vive as a 

cj^y^est, started for the Falaise soon after 

\ lunch. 

The sub-crater on our side of the volcano 
was not more than three miles and a half, in 
an air line, from Mr. Clerc's house ; and as 
it was situated on one of the lower slopes of 
the mountain, near the old Calebasse road, it 
could be reached without much difficulty. 
We had seen white clouds of steam rising 
from it occasionally, but no one had yet visited 
it, and as it seemed that day to be absolutely 
quiescent, Mr. Clerc and Mr. Jaccaci were 
anxious to examine it more closely — partly as 
a matter of scientific curiosity, and partly to 
ascertain whether it was really a serious men- 
ace to Vive. 



After the party had gone, I studied, through 
a field-glass, the ash-covered, deeply furrowed 
slopes of the volcano, looked now and then 
for signs of disturbance in the gorge of the 
Falaise, and watched the great volume of yel- 
lowish-white vapor which boiled up out of 
the main crater, rose majestically in immense 
cloudy thunder-heads to a height of four or 
five thousand feet, and then drifted slowly 
away to the westward under the influence of 
the steady trade wind. 

Up to this time. May 26, we had seen 
nothing whatever to indicate that Mont Pelee 
was in a state of dangerous, or even serious, 
activity. Grfeat clouds of vapor rolled up in- 
cessantly from the main crater, but they were 
carried away from us by the trade wind ; no 
ashes fell ; there were no rumblings or deto- 
nations ; and as I sat looking at the gray, 
desolate mountain that afternoon, I said to 
myself, " Jaccaci, Clerc, and the others will 
have a safe trip ; the volcano isn't going to 
do anything to-day." 

The crater-exploring party returned about 
five o'clock and gave us a graphic description 
of the wild gorge of the upper Falaise, which, 



Mr. Jaccaci said, was the most impressive, 
frightful, and unearthly place he had ever 
seen, although he was familiar with Vesuvius, 
Stromboli, and Etna. The crater, with its 
deep pit and vault-like openings into the vol- 
cano, proved to be empty ; but the desolate, 
eroded caflon in which it was situated looked 
like a Dore picture of the gateway to hell. I 
had not seen Mr. Jaccaci so roused and ex- 
cited since our arrival in Martinique ; and I 
regretted that I had not gone with the party, 
fever or no fever. They had evidently seen 
something that was treniendous, unearthly, 
and awe-inspiring. 

When dinner was served that night, about 
seven o'clock, a larger company assembled 
than usual. Mr. Clerc's brother from Trinite 
had come to make him a short visit, and there 
were two or three other guests from neighbor- 
ing plantations or from Basse Pointe. Mr. 
Varian came down, ill as he was, and sat with 
us for an hour or more, but finally had an at- 
tack of faintness, and asked to be excused, 
and left the room. It was then a little after 
eight o'clock. He had just gone upstairs 
when we were startled by three or four dull, 




heavy explosions — boom ! boom-boom ! 
boom ! — like the sound of cannonading at a 
distance of two or three miles. Mr. Clerc 
shouted excitedly, " Le volcan ! Le volcan ! " 
and, springing from his seat, rushed out of 
doors, with all the rest of us at his heels. 
There were a lot of mango-trees just in front 
of the house, and we had to run twenty or 
thirty yards before we could see the volcano 
at all. When we got out into the open, it 
burst suddenly upon our startled eyes, and a 
more splendid and at the same time terrifying 
object I had never seen nor imagined. The 
whole mountain, from base to summit, was 
ablaze with volcanic lightning, and the air 
trembled with short, heavy, thunderous ex- 
plosions, like the firing of thirteen-inch guns 
from half a dozen battleships in action. 
Straight up from the crater, clearly outlined 
against the starry sky, rose a column of inky- 
black vapor, a thousand feet in height, which 
looked like a shaft of solid ebony. Before I 
had time to breathe twice it had reached a 
height of two thousand feet ; in thirty seconds 
it had grown three thousand feet more, with- 
out the least increase in width ; and in less 



than two minutes it stood ten thousand feet 
above the crater and was still going up. In 
every part of this ascending column of black 
vapor there were bursting huge electric stars 
of volcanic lightning, which illuminated the 
whole mountain, while the accompanying 
roar of thunderous explosions sounded like 
a great naval battle at sea. 

I was so absorbed in the magnificence of 
the spectacle that I had no consciousness of 
my situation, and did not even notice what 
was going on about me until I heard Mr. 
Clerc shout in English, " Gentlemen, it is 
time to go ! This is a dangerous place ! We 
will go to the house of my good friend at 
Acier ! " 

Recalled suddenly by Mr. Clerc's voice to 
a consciousness of my environment, I looked 
around and found myself in a throng of 
fugitives, servants, hostlers, laborers from the 
sugar mill, and employees of the estate gen- 
erally, who had rushed out of their houses or 
run into the yard from the road at the first 
alarm, and were staring at the volcano in 
what seemed to be a daze of bewilderment 
and terror. Mr. Clerc's excited cry, " Gen- 



tlemen, it is time to go ! " and a hasty order 
which he gave in French to his overseer, Mr. 
Chancel, roused the silent crowd from its 
stupor of amazement and threw it into a 
panic of excitement and fear. Everybody 
rushed in one direction or another, and the 
yard instantly became a scene of the wildest 
confusion. Fugitives from Ajoupa Bouillon 
and Basse Pointe, who had stopped at Vive 
to rest or bivouac, broke into headlong flight; 
employees of the estate rushed away to their 
houses, calling loudly to their wives and chil- 
dren as they ran ; Mr. Chancel and three or 
four hostlers started for the stable to get 
a horse or saddle-mule for Mademoiselle 
Marie; Mr. Clerc remembering that Varian 
was ill, but forgetting his name, ran into the 
house and shouted up the stairway, "Mr. 
Artist ! Mr. Artist ! It is time to go ! " and 
the thunderings of the volcano, the shouts of 
excited men, the barking of dogs, the wailing 
of frightened children, and the shrill cries of 
half-frantic women made up a tumult that 
was enough to shake the coolest self-posses- 

I wavered for a moment, took another 




look at the tremendous lightning-shot pillar 
of black cloud over the crater of the volcano, 
remembered St. Pierre and the ash-plastered 
bodies of the dead in the tornado valley of 
the Roxelane, and made up my mind that, 
in the words of Mr. Clerc, it was " time to 
go." I cannot remember whether I said 
anything to Mr. Jaccaci and Mr. Varian or 
not. We were all half dazed, ourselves, by 
the suddenness of the eruption and the 
frightful appearance of the volcano, and there 
was no time or opportunity for consultation 
as to the best course of action. Mr. Clerc 
had virtually taken command with the shout 
" It is time to go ! " and I felt no disposition 
to question his judgment or dispute his au- 
thority. I determined, however, that I would 
not go without my note book and camera. 
I had left them upstairs in my bedroom, and, 
as I remembered exactly where they were, I 
found them without difficulty, even in the 
darkness ; but I could not possibly find my 
cork helmet. I therefore caught up a mack- 
intosh that happened to be hanging over the 
back of a chair, and threw it across my arm, 
with the idea that if volcanic stones or hot 



cinders should begin to fall I could fold it up 
into a sort of cushion and use it as a protec- 
tion for my head. That volcano had already 
thrown stones large enough to kill into the 
yard of the Military Hospital at Fort de 
France, fifteen miles away ; and I didn't want 
to be caught out in the open bareheaded. I 
had only slippers on my feet, but there was 
no time then to look for, or put on, shoes. 

When I got back into the yard, after an 
absence of about a minute and a half, the 
crowd had somewhat diminished; but Mr. 
Jaccaci and Mr. Varian were still there and 
Mr. Clerc and Mr. Chancel were just putting 
Mademoiselle Marie on a horse. I ran out 
beyond the mango trees to take one more 
look at the volcano. A dull red glow, streaked 
with what seemed to be tongues of flame, rose 
two or three hundred feet above the main 
crater, forming a fiery base for a shaft of in- 
tensely black vapor, ten or twelve thousand 
feet in height, which had already begun to 
mushroom out at the top. Showers of in- 
candescent stones were falling over the sum- 
mit of the mountain, and the vappr-column 
was pierced incessantly by short streaks of 



idly in the direction of Grande Anse. I 
heard occasionally an exclamation of " Oh, 
mon Dieu ! " from some frightened woman, 
but, as a rule, both men and women fled in 
silence, never stopping or looking behind 

At the top of the first ascending slope in 
the road, about a quarter of a mile from 
Vive, I stopped for an instant to recover my 
breath and look again at the volcano. The 
mushrooming cloud of vapor was then mov- 
ing swiftly eastward, opening out like a huge 
black fan as it advanced, and its sharply de- 
fined edge had almost reached the zenith. 
The volcano itself was still ablaze with light- 
ning, and the star-like bombs were bursting 
around the crater, in the black pillar of cloud 
that rose from it, and in every part of the 
inky canopy overhead. The thunderous ex- 
plosions, the incessant flashing out of brilliant 
meteoric stars, the dull red glow at the base 
of the ascending vapor-column, and the 
shower of incandescent stones and cinders, 
streaking with fire a background of impene- 
trable gloom, made up an exhibition of in- 
fernal energy that, to one who had seen St 

1 06 


Pierre, was simply appalling. It looked like 
the end of all things. 

As the great blazing, thundering tide of 
black vapor rolled eastward it blotted out the 
constellations, one after another, until there 
was left only a streak of clear sky, ten or 
fifteen degrees in width, along the southern 
horizon. It was then much darker than when 
we left Vive, but the brilliant flashes of 
stellar lightning in the volcanic mantle over- 
head illumined the gray, ash-covered road, so 
that we had no difficulty in finding our way, so 
long as we did not look upward. But I wanted 
to look upward most of the time. The light- 
ning was so extraordinary, and so different 
from anything I had ever before seen, that 
I stumbled along, with upturned face, watch- 
ing the play of the short, quick flashes, and 
the star-like outbursts with which they ended, 
until my eyes were so dazzled that I could 
not see the man who was running beside me, 
much less the horse of Mademoiselle Marie, 
ahead. Jaccaci, Varian and I tried to keep 
together ; but there was a stream of fugitives 
in the road, and in the darkness, confusion 
and excitement we sometimes became sepa- 



rated. A shout, however, of " Jaccaci ! Va- 
rian! Where are you ? " always brought the 
cheery reply, " Here we are ; all right ! " 
From Clerc and Chancel, who were running 
ahead beside the horse of Mademoiselle 
Marie, we heard nothing, and I had not the 
faintest idea where they intended to go ; but 
I presumed we were all bound for the house 
of the " good friend" at Acier where Mr. 
Clerc had been spending his nights. 

The evening was intensely close and hot, 
and I feared that Varian, who had been ill 
all day, would faint or collapse before we 
could reach a place of shelter ; but he showed 
no sign of distress, and said, in reply to every 
inquiry, " Oh, I'm all right." Mr. Jaccaci, 
who was apparently the least excited man in 
the party, tried at intervals to encourage and 
quiet the panic-stricken fugitives who were 
hurrying along the road beside us ; and when, 
after an unusually brilliant outburst of stellar 
lightning, or a terrifying explosion overhead, 
some frightened nativewoman began to whim- 
per, or cried distractedly, " Oh, mon Dieu ! 
mon Dieu !" he would say, " Cheer up, 
mother ! It's nothing serious. Dangerous ? 



Not a bit ; nothing is going to hurt you," 
and the reassured woman would trudge along 
quietly, more comforted than if a dozen 
paper chromo-lithographs of the Marti- 
nique Madonna had been pinned over her 

If some scientific investigator of volcanic 
phenomena should ask me how much time 
the black vapor-cloud occupied in going 
from the crater to a point vertically over the 
seacoast at Grande Anse, and how long we 
were running or walking on the road east of 
Vive, I should have to make a random, un- 
trustworthy guess. Time and space did not 
register in my consciousness ; and all that I 
am now able to say is that, when we climbed 
the last hill and found ourselves among the 
big trees in front of the old colonial man- 
sion of Acier, stars of volcanic lightning were 
still bursting not only in the black canopy 
above our heads, but far east of us, over the 
ocean, at a distance of at least seven miles 
from the crater. 

We reached shelter just in time to escape a 
shower of ashes and smalU hot volcanic 
stones, which began to patter down, like sleet, 



through the leaves of the trees as we burst in 
at the side door of the dark and empty house. 
I fortunately happened to have a box of 
matches in my pocket, and scratching one on 
the door I lighted a bit of a candle that I 
found on the dining table. The room in- 
stantly filled with fugitives — mostly negroes 
— who had come with us or preceded us, and 
as their faces and figures took form and color 
in the light of that flaring candle-end, it was 
evident that this was one of the occasions 
when birds that are not of a feather flock 
together. It would have been hard to find, 
that night, in all Martinique, a more hetero- 
geneous roomful of people. At Vive we had 
been gentlemen, guests, servants, sugar-mill 
hands, Hindoo coolies, negro women, and a 
lady. At Acier we were simply a lot of 
tired Pelee fugitives. I looked vainly for 
Mr. Clerc, his brother Josef, and the negro 
journalist, Confiant, who sat next me at din- 
ner. All had gone on in the direction of 
Grande Anse, and the journalist, who had 
lost twenty-eight relatives in St. Pierre, fled 
fifteen miles down the eastern coast before he 
finally stopped at Trinite. The owner of 



the mansion where we were, had run away 
with all his servants, long before we arrived ; 
and as we subsequently learned, there had 
been a general stampede, and that this gen- 
eral stampede of many frightened people had 
extended not only from Vive to Acier, but 
also from not a few villages and towns as 
distant as Grande Anse, Marigot and St. 

When we reached the house at Acier, we 
were tired, breathless, and dripping with per- 
spiration ; but Mr. Chancel found some rum 
in a wine-closet, and after taking a " bracer " 
of that fiery stimulant and resting a little, I 
felt sufficiently revived to go out into the 
yard and look once more at Mont Pelee. It 
was then pitch dark. The electric stars had 
ceased bursting overhead ; the glow above 
the crater had disappeared, and the volcano 
had wrapped itself in a shroud of impenetra- 
ble gloom. A storm, however, seemed to be 
raging above it, and the bolts of smoke-red- 
dened lightning which shot down upon it at 
intervals were followed by long peals of roll- 
ing, reverberating thunder. 

When I returned to the dining-room, 



Mademoiselle Marie had taken charge of the 
house ; found and lighted a lamp ; sent the 
negroes to the kitchen ; and was getting bed- 
rooms ready for us in the second story. 
Varian, who was feeling the chill of wet un- 
derclothing and the reaction from excitement 
and fatigue, soon went upstairs to bed ; and 
while Mr. Jaccaci was discussing the volcano 
with Mr. Chancel, I sat down at the table to 
write up my notes. 

The feature of the eruption that made the 
deepest impression upon me was the stellar 
lightning. The uprush of black smoke, the 
glow over the crater, and the shower of incan- 
descent stones and cinders were all phenom- 
ena that had been observed and described be- 
fore ; but the short, thin streaks of lightning 
followed by star-like explosions in the vol- 
canic mantle — not only above the crater, but 
miles away from it — were entirely new. The 
distinctive characteristics of this lightning 
were the shortness of the streak, the compar- 
atively great size and brilliancy of the spark, 
or light-burst, at the end of the streak, and 
the single booming report that followed. 
Sometimes three or four great sparks, con- 



nected by fiery streaks, would flash out to- 
gether in this way : 

and at other times the stars would burst so 
far back in the cloud that the streaks were in- 
visible and there was only a circular irradia- 
tion of the vapor. If there was any storm 
lightning of the ordinary kind in the earlier 
stages of the eruption, it was so much less 
noticeable than the stellar lightning that it 
escaped my observation ; and I am quite 
sure that there was no rolling, reverberating 
thunder at all until near the close of the dis- 
play, when reddish lightning-bolts began to 
dart down on the volcano from the develop- 
ing storm-cloud over the crater. Before that 
time all, or nearly all, of the electric discharges 
had ended in stellar light-bursts, and all of 



the thunder had been made up of separate 
and distinct reports, like the thunder of a 
heavy and rapid cannonade. 

The general effect of the stellar lightning 
was that of a short, thin electric discharge 
striking and igniting a pocket of inflamma- 
ble gas in the cloud of volcanic vapor. I 
am not at all sure, however, that the star-like 
explosions were caused in this way. It is 
hard to observe accurately in a time of such 
excitement ; but I am almost sure that the 
stellar light-bursts were sometimes wholly 
outside of the volcanic mantle. It might pos- 
sibly be worth while to ascertain whether any 
such effects as these can be produced in the 
laboratory by sending an electric discharge of 
high tension through hot air or steam densely 
charged with fine rock-dust. It hardly seems 
possible that there could have been isolated, 
discrete pockets of inflammable gas in that 
volcanic cloud, seven miles away from the 
crater; and if not, the phenomenon must 
have been wholly electrical. 

This stellar lightning, in connection with 
a volcanic eruption, has been observed, I 
think, before ; but it does not seem to have 



been commented upon or investigated. Cap- 
tain Watson, of the British ship Charles 
Bal, saw what he afterward described as a 
" continual roll of balls of white fire " over 
Krakatoa, when he was twelve miles off that 
volcano, during the night eruption of August 
^7> 1883 ; and *^ fire-balls " were seen in the 
vapor of the New Zealand volcano Tarawera 
in 1886. Finally, the Japanese geologist 
Kikuchi,of the Imperial University of Tokyo, 
reports that in the great eruption of the Japa- 
nese volcano of Bandai-san in 1888, "the peo- 
ple of Inawashiro and the neighboring villages 
saw, through the falling ashes " (in the day- 
time), ^^innumerable vivid sparks of fir eon the 
slopes of Obandai and Akahani, at consider- 
able distances from the crater. These sparks 
were quite different in nature from lightning, 
presenting rather an appearance as of the ^r- 
ing of innumerable guns^^ 

There can be little doubt, I think, that 
these " vivid sparks," which were bright 
enough to be seen by the inhabitants of sev- 
eral villages at a distance of two or three miles 
in the daytime, were precisely such star-like 
outbursts as we saw on the night of May 26 



in the vapor of Mont Pelee. When I 
rushed out of doors, at the beginning of the 
eruption, the first impression made upon my 
mind was that brilliantly white meteors were 
being thrown out of the ascending vapor-col- 
umn in every direction — sometimes upward 
and sometimes downward toward the slopes 
of the volcano. But this observation is not 
wholly trustworthy. All I am sure of is that the 
whole volcano seemed to be ablaze with these 
electric stars, which suggested both meteors 
and huge sparks from a gigantic Leyden jar. 

At eleven o'clock, when I finished writing 
up my notes of the eruption and again went 
out of doors, the black cloud overhead was 
growing perceptibly thinner, and seemed to 
be drifting away to the northward. Mont 
Pelee was still wrapped in dark vapor, but 
there were no lightning flashes over the crater ; 
no sound of any kind came from that direc- 
tion, and the volcano had apparently sus- 
pended operations. When I returned to the 
house, Mr. Jaccaci, who had seemed for an 
hour to be more than usually thoughtful and 
moody, said to me, " What do you think 
about going back to Vive ? " 






S^uc •' 


'^ I 




" Now — to-night ? " I inquired. 

" Yes ; as soon as it gets light enough." 

" I don't see any particular use," I said, 
" in going back to a place we've just run away 
from. Shan't we be comfortable here ? " 

" Oh, yes," he said, " I suppose so ; but I 
don't like this running away from things. 
Besides that, somebody ought to look after 
Mr. Clerc's house. We simply abandoned 
it, leaving all the doors open, and it might be 

"So far as the running away is concerned," 
I replied, " I haven't a bit of feeling, and I 
don't see why you should have. If you were 
in a deep valley and saw a Johnstown flood 
coming down on you, wouldn't you get out 
of the way if you could ? " 

" Yes — probably — but if you and I and 
Varian had been alone at Vive we should have 
stood our ground. It was Clerc and the 
others who stampeded us. I hate to do any- 
thing that has to be explained." 

Well, Field Marshal," I said laughingly, 
if you'll just describe, in your eloquent way, 
what we saWy I don't think anybody will 
ever call for an explanation of what we did. 



However, if you want to go back to Vive to- 
night, I'm with you. My underclothing is 
all wet ; I'm getting chilly ; and I'd like a 
bath and a change, anyway." 

At half-past eleven it was light enough to 
see the road, and Mr. Jaccaci, Mr. Chancel 
and I started back on foot. When we 
reached Vive, just before midnight, we found 
a crowd of silent, terror-stricken fugitives 
huddled close together in the shelter of the 
house, at the end of the piazza that was 
farthest away from the volcano. Somebody 
had put out the lights on the dining table 
and closed the doors, and nothing seemed to 
have been disturbed. 

We went to our rooms, refreshed ourselves 
with a bath, a medicinal dose of rum, and a 
smoke, and had just gone to bed when we 
heard footsteps on the stairs, and, to our 
great astonishment, in burst Mr. Clerc. He 
looked tired and anxious ; his wet hair was 
plastered down over his forehead ; and he 
was evidently excited. 

" Well, gentlemen," he said, " wastit that 
an explosion ! Ai ! ai ! ai ! I've come back 
with two carriages to take you away." 




" Thank you/' said Mr. Jaccaci, coolly; 
" we don't want to go away." 

" But you can't stay here ! " he cried ex- 
citedly ; " it's dangerous ! You don't know 
what that volcano is going to do. I've seen 
four explosions — -fourV* (holding up four 
fingers to me) " and I don't want to see any 
more — God forbid ! But I've come back 
after you." 

" We're very comfortable here," said Mr. 
Jaccaci, "and I'm not going to get up again 
to-night — volcano or no volcano." 

" But, gentlemen ! " expostulated Mr. 
Clerc, "you don't understand. This is 
serious — very serious ! Vive is a dangerous 
place. You don't know what may happen 
to you before morning." 

Mr. Jaccaci still refused to get up, and I 
felt satisfied that nothing short of a Krakatoa 
explosion would drive him away from Vive 
again that night. 

" Well, gentlemen," said poor Mr. Clerc 
at last, " you are my guests. I feel respon- 
sible for your safety, and I have come back 
here, after midnight, with two carriages, to 
take you to Trinite. You won't go, and I 


can't do any more. I've warned you, and 
you must do as you think best. If you stay, 
I shall have to bid you good-by. I am 
going, myself, to Fort de France." 

We thanked him most cordially for his 
warm-hearted hospitality, for his kindness, 
and for the courage and devotion that he 
had shown in coming back after us, but told 
him that we had come to Martinique to 
study that volcano, and we didn't care to run 
away from it twice in one night. He shook 
hands with us, wished us good luck, bade us 
good-by, and started for Trinite. A few 
days later he went to Guadeloupe after his 
family, and sailed thence, by the first French 
transatlantic steamer, for Havre. The con- 
ditions of life on the island of Martinique 
had become, as he said, "impossibly." 

We got through the night at Vive without 
an alarm, and at half-past six the next morn- 
ing we were joined by Mr. Varian and 
Mademoiselle Marie, who, also, had decided 
to return. 

The volcano was in a state of intense 
activity and looked extremely threatening 
and dangerous. The vapor had all cleared 

1 20 


and black showers of falling ashes, and 
seemed to me more threatening and terrify- 
ing than ever. Before noon I had become 
so wrought up by anxiety and nervous strain 
that my imagination began to run away with 
me, and I suddenly felt a vague but over- 
whelming premonition of some impending 
catastrophe. Going to Mr. Jaccaci*s bedside 
I said to him : " If you feel able to get up, I 
wish you'd come and look at this volcano." 
He walked feebly to the side window in the 
upper story of the house, gazed fixedly at the 
volcano for fully a minute and then said : 
"It looks as Vesuvius must have looked five 
minutes before the destruction of Pompeii. 
If you want to get out of this, Tm ready to 


" I've been wanting to get out of this," I 

said, " for the last four hours. The thing 
is getting on my nerves. If you and Varian 
feel able to ride I'm in favor of leaving here 
at once." 

We summoned Mr. Chancel, held a vol- 
cano-council, and decided to close the house 
and seek a safer place of abode. Ox-carts 
were brought to the door ; mattresses, bed- 



ding, personal baggage, table-linen, wine, food, 
and such other things as we were likely to 
need were put into them, mules were har- 
nessed to a light double carriage, and we all 
strated for Acier, leaving Vive to its fate. 




IT would be hard to find, in all the islands 
of Martinique, a country place that is 
more beautifully situated than the old 
colonial mansion of Acier. When we rushed 
into it, on the night of the eruption of May 
26, darkness prevented us from getting any 
clear idea of its location or environment ; but 
when we returned there, the next afternoon, 
we all agreed that a more picturesque and 
commanding site for a house jcould hardly 
have been found along that coast. Morne 
Jacob, one of the outlying foothills of the 
Carbet group of peaks, throws out on its 
northern side, toward the Domenica channel, 
a number of long sloping ridges, or but- 
tresses, separated one from another by deep 



session, almost as unceremoniously as we had 
taken possession the night before. It was an 
indefensible course of procedure, perhaps, but 
Mr. Jaccaci and Mr. Varian were not at all 
well and we had to have some place to stay. 
Besides that, if a man runs away and aban- 
dons his house he must expect that it will be 
treated as a derelict. We therefore carried 
in our bedding and food, set the rooms in 
order, lighted a taper before a life-sized 
chromo-lithograph of a Madonna with sword- 
pierced heart in the upper hall, put a fresh 
cloth on the dining table, kindled fires in the 
kitchen charcoal-braziers, got luncheon, and 

when, a little later, Mr. M , the owner of 

the estate, came back to see what had hap- 
pened to his abandoned property, we were 
fully prepared to take him to board, as a 
homeless fugitive, and give him the best we 
had in the house. He looked rather sur- 
prised — not to say dazed — when he found 
us in full possession of the premises ; but a 
few words from Mr. Chancel and Mademoi- 
selle Marie cleared up the situation, and he 
begged us courteously to make ourselves 
perfectly at home. 



Mont Pelee continued very active all the 
afternoon. Dense clouds of dark yellow 
mud smoke rose incessantly from the main 
crater, and the sky, behind the ascending 
vapor-column, was one vast black sheet of 
falling ashes; but we no longer felt appre- 
hensive. Acier, although only a little far- 
ther away from the volcano than Vive, was 
much safer than the latter as a place of resi- 
dence, on account of its topographical situa- 
tion. Vive was so low that it might be over- 
whelmed by a tidal wave, or swept into the 
sea, as the Guerin sugar-mill had been, by a 
flood of mud and water from the gorge and 
Falaise ; but Acier was not menaced by either 
of these dangers. Falling stones might reach 
us, or, if the volcano should split open on 
the eastern side, we might be struck by such 
a blast as the one that destroyed St. Pierre ; 
but these were extremely remote possibilities 
and gave us no uneasiness. 

Jaccaci and Varian spent most of the after- 
noon in bed ; but after dinner they began to 
feel better, and we all went out and sat in 
rocking-chairs on the lawn, watching the vol- 
cano, listening to the faint intermittent roar 



of the surf, and enjoying the cool freshness 
of the gentle trade-wind. The twenty-four 
hours had made almost as great a change as 
could possibly have been made in our feel- 
ings and our environment. Monday night 
we were rushing, panic-stricken, away from 
Vive, under a black cloud that blazed with 
volcanic lightning and shook the air with the 
thunder of a heavy cannonade. Tuesday 
night we sat comfortably in rocking-chairs 
on the lawn of a pleasant country house, 
smoking, talking, and paying little more at- 
tention to the volcano than to the fireflies 
that flashed their tiny lamps in dark recesses 
of the shrubbery, or the bats that swooped 
and wheeled noiselessly over our heads. 
Mont Pelee, however, was slowly gathering 
its energies for another outburst. 

Wednesday morningdawned cool and clear, 
and when I went out of doors, about six 
o'clock, I could see nothing to indicate a re- 
newal of volcanic activity. A cloud of yel- 
lowish-brown smoke was drifting away from 
the main crater, but it did not rise to a great 
height, and looked much less threatening 
than on the previous day. After breakfast, 



in bright sunshine, made a spectacle of almost 
unimaginable beauty and grandeur. 

As the force of the tremendous subterra- 
nean explosion spent itself, the rolling con- 
volutions of vapor lost their sharpness of 
outline and grew darker ; the cloudy column 
began to mushroom out at the top, and a 
deep shadow crept down the slopes of the 
mountain and across the valley of the Capot 
as the murky cloud of dust-laden steam 
rolled slowly eastward over the plantation of 
Vive. Sharp lightning, followed by peals of 
rolling, reverberating thunder, then began to 
streak down on the volcano from the over- 
hanging cloud, and a black, crape-like screen 
of falling ashes soon hid more than two- 
thirds of the western sky. 

The most striking feature of this eruption 
was the rapid and noiseless evolution of im- 
mense volu mes of dust-charged steam . There 
must have been a tremendous explosion to send 
that vapor-column twelve or fifteen thousand 
feet into the air ; but, if so, it took place far 
down in the depths of the earth, because I 
did not hear a sound of any kind until light- 
ning began to flash in the cloud over the cra- 



ter. The projectile force of the outburst was 
not so great, apparently, as in the eruption 
of Monday night. The cloud-canopy formed 
by the mushrooming out of the ascending 
vapor-column did not extend more than five 
or six miles on the windward side of the cra- 
ter ; there was no stellar lightning ; no ashes 
or lapilli fell at Acier ; and I could not see, 
through a strong glass, anything that looked 
like an ejection of stones. It was simply 
a tremendous uprush of steam densely 
charged with fine particles of pulverized 

The vapor that is thrown out of the main 
crater of Mont Pelee varies greatly from day 
to day, and sometimes from hour to hour, 
not only in density, but in color, form, and 
general appearance. In its varying aspects 
it may be described as follows : 

I . The vapor of quiescence — a slowly as- 
cending column of pure white steam which 
has neither sharp, clearly defined outlines, 
nor pufF-like convolutions, and which sug- 
gests steam rising from the hot water of a 
geyser-basin, or from the escape-pipe of a 
big ocean steamer. 



2. The vapor of moderate activity — b. col- 
umn of greater density and somewhat darker 
color, which rolls and unfolds a little as it 
rises, and looks like steam mixed with brown- 
ish or yellowish smoke from a chimney of a 

3. The vapor of dangerous activity — a 
sharply defined, dark-yellow column of what 
appears to be liquid mud, which boils out of 
the volcano in huge rounded masses, swelling 
and evolving in immense convolutions as it 
rises — one gigantic mud-bubble breaking up 
out of another in turn — until over the crater 
there stands a solid opaque pillar of boiling, 
unfolding, evolving mud-vapor, five hundred 
feet in diameter and eight or ten thousand 
feet in height. 

4. Thevapor of great eruptions — astraight- 
sided shaft of very black smoke, which shoots 
up out of the crater with tremendous velocity, 
like the smoke of a colossal piece of artillery 
fired heavenward. This shaft goes to a height 
of fifteen or twenty thousand feet, and then 
miishrooms out laterally so as to cover a 
circle fifty miles or more in diameter with a 
volcanic canopy which is as dark as the black- 





est thunder-cloud and which shuts out the 
light of day like a total eclipse. The pro- 
jectile force, in eruptions of this kind, is so 
great that it throws the black vapor far above 
the influence of the trade-wind, and the ad- 
vancing edge of the volcanic mantle moves 
swiftly eastward, two miles or more above 
the fleecy trade-wind clouds that are drifting 
in the opposite direction. 

It would be natural enough, perhaps, to 
suppose that the volcano, in its varying phases 
of activity, throws out vapor of diflTerent 
kinds — at one. time pure white steam, at an- 
other time steam mixed with smoke, and in 
a great eruption inky-black smoke of the 
sootiest kind ; but such is not the case. A 
volcano never emits true smoke — that is, air 
laden with particles of unconsumed carbon — 
at any time ; and ninety-nine per cent, of the 
vapor that rises from Mont Pelee is pure 
steam. When this steam is wholly free from 
solid matter, it looks white ; but as it be- 
comes more and more heavily charged with 
the fine dust of pulverized rock, it acquires 
greater and greater apparent density, and 
changes its color from pure white to yellow- 



ish-white, then to a dark muddy-yellow, and 
finally to brownish-black and the deep threat- 
ening black of a hurricane or tornado cloud. 
The form as well as the rate of movement of 
the ascending vapor-column seems to depend 
upon the manner in which the steam makes 
its escape from the hot interior of the vol- 
cano and the projectile force of the subter- 
ranean explosions. The finely divided mat- 
ter which gives density and color to the col- 
umn of steam is volcanic dust — z grayish 
powder, like Portland cement, which is noth- 
ing more nor less than rock that has beenv 
ground up in the vast subterranean mortar 
of the volcano, or, as seems more likely, 
blown into minute fragments by the expan- 
sive force of hot aqueous vapor suddenly re- 
leased from immense pressure. In describ- 
ing Mont Pelee and the results of its activity, 
I have sometimes used, and may continue to 
use, the words " smoke '* and " ashes ;" but 
it must steadily be borne in mind that the 
volcano ejects neither the one nor the other. 
What looks like smoke is steam charged 
with dust, and the dust which ' looks like 
ashes is powdered rock. 



fled in the direction of the Carbet peaks. 
What happened to them afterward he did 
not know ; but he heard from some of the 
natives that they returned to Fort de France 
the next day on foot. 

Tuesday noon another American corre- 
spondent, named Kavanaugh, came into 
Morne Rouge from the south on horseback, 
and, shortly after lunch, made an attempt to 
ascend the volcano alone. He came back in 
a state of complete exhaustion about three 
hours later, and after the eruption on Wednes- 
day morning he also returned to Fort de 
France. How high he had succeeded in get- 
ting on the mountain. Father Mary could 
not tell us. Mr. Robert T. Hill, of the 
United States Geological Survey, started for 
Morne Rouge with Kavanaugh, but for some 
reason failed to get through, and the cure 
understood that he had gone back. We were 
very sorry to miss seeing all these Americans, 
and especially Mr. Hill, who had come to 
Martinique with us on the Dixie; but it 
was some satisfaction to feel that although 
we, too, had been stampeded by the night 
eruption of the 26 th, we were still in the field. 



about two thousand feet we were caught in a 
heavy shower, which so softened and loosened 
up the ashes as to make the walking difficult 
and tiresome. 

The scenery, as we approached the top of 
the long arete, became extremely wild, 
gloomy, and desolate. The mountain slopes 
were covered to a depth of a foot or more 
with gray ashes ; the trees in all the ravines 
at our left were bare and apparently dead ; 
the leafless bushes that bordered the path had 
been so broken and matted down by ashes, 
cinders, and heavy rain that our guide fre- 
quently had to cut a way through them with 
his machete, and over the whole mountain was 
the stillness of universal death. I saw no 
living thing except a solitary land-crab, which 
seemed to be making its way down out of 
that region of fire, floods, lightning, ashes, 
and Plutonian desolation. 

Quiescent as the volcano had seemed 
when we left Morne Rouge, it did not fail 
to give us, at intervals, indications and re- 
minders of its eruptive capabilities. Just 
before we reached the huge black knob that 
breaks the symmetrical slope of the mountain 



they had first been swept by fire and then 
half buried by a heavy sleet-storm of wet 

A walk of five minutes more brought us 
to the highest part of the Calebasse ; and 
stopping suddenly on the brink of a preci- 
pice, we looked down into the wild, gloomy, 
unearthly gorge of the Falaise — a chaos of 
tremendous cliflFs, landslides, enormous vol- 
canic bowlders, blackened forests, and narrow 
eroded channels, hundreds of feet in depth, 
through which were tumbling torrents of 
steaming water or hot mud. A great cloud 
of yellowish-brown smoke was rising from 
the crater, a thousand feet below, and all up 
and down the bottom of the gorge we could 
see uprushes of steam from fumaroles or 
from water coming into contact with masses 
of hot volcanic material that had suddenly 
caved away from the precipitous bank and 
fallen into the stream. 

The distinctive characteristic of the whole 
scene was its absolute unearthliness. The 
wildness and ruggedness of the contours ; 
the absence of all colors except white, gray, 
and black ; the sudden and mysterious up- 



\ '» 


rushes of steam or smoke ; the faint haze of 
falling dust; the storm-clouds that eddied 
around us and deepened the gloominess of 
the gorge ; the drifts of volcanic ^shes in the 
foreground, and the immense gray mass of 
the mountain, rising to unknown heights in 
the thick mist overhead, made up a picture 
that had no parallel in my experience. It 
might have been a scene from a Dantesque 
Inferno, or a glimpse of another planet in 
one of the formative stages of development, 
but it was like nothing terrestrial. 

We felt more than half inclined to de- 
scend into the gorge and see what the 
Falaise crater was actually doing ; but the 
weather looked very threatening ; a sudden 
roaring sound from the steaming abyss below 
warned us that it was by no means a safe 
place to be during an eruption — or even in 
a severe storm — and we finally decided to 
call it a day's work and return to Morne 
Rouge. The whole summit of the volcano 
was enveloped in dense clouds, so that 
there was no possibility of reaching the 
main crater that afternoon, even if we 
were prepared to attempt it. It was still a 



thousand feet above us, and nearly a mile 

I wrote a brief record of our ascent, and 
placed it in the cleft of a split pole, which I 
planted in the ashes at the highest point 
reached on the Calebasse divide, and, after 
taking one more look at the gloomy gorge, 
we started homeward. Another heavy 
tropical rain-storm caught us on our way 
down, but we fortunately had no streams to 
cross, and reached Morne Rouge in safety 
about three o'clock. We found the parish 
house filled with the pungent smell of phe- 
nic acid, which Father Mary said he had 
sprinkled over the floor to counteract or 
overpower a faint odor of dead bodies that 
came up from the valley of the Roxelane. 

Early in the evening the clouds broke away 
from the top of the volcano ; a faint glow of 
subterranean fire lighted up the vapor-col- 
umn over the main crater, and we heard two 
or three rumbling detonations, but nothing 
happened. About nine o'clock a vessel 
somewhere off St. Pierre — probably a French 
cruiser — threw a powerful searchlight on the 
mountain, and illuminated the summit so that 



we could disrincdy see the V-shaped gorge 
just below the crater on the southwestern 
side, and even the movements of the smoke 
as it rolled up and drifted away on the light 
trade-wind in the direction of Precheur. 
Then the piercing shaft of radiance swept 
down the mud-slope of the Riviere Blanche 
to the site of the Guerin sugar-mill, shifted 
to the ruins of St. Pierre, and finally vanished, 
leaving the mountain dark as before. 



MONT PELfiE showed no signs 
of dangerous activity Saturday 
morning, and, as we had done all 
that we expected to do at M orne Rouge, we 
decided to return to Acier and make an 
attempt to reach the main crater by way of 
the Morne Balais arete, which all the natives 
said was a better and easier route than that 
up the Calebasse. After taking a photograph 
of Father Mary — one of the bravest and 
most devoted priests in all Martinique — we 
bade him good-by, climbed into our car- 
riage, and started down the long, sinuous 
road that leads to the valley of the Capot. 
At the mouth of the Falaise gorge we found 
that the high stone bridge over the stream had 



cer's feeling of apprehension, and we soon 
had evidence to show that it was well founded. 
Just after we passed Vive a torrent of hot 
water rushed down the gorge into the Capot, 
throwing up clouds of white steam along its 
course for a distance of a mile and a half or 
two miles. 

We reached Acier soon after noon, and 
learned, to our great surprise, that Pro- 
fessor Angelo Heilprin, of Philadelphia, and 
Mr. Leadbeater, a photographer from New 
York, had arrived there during our absence, 
and had started up the mountain that morn- 
ing, by way of the Balais arete, with the in- 
tention of reaching, if possible, the main cra- 
ter. The top of the volcano, when we got 
back to Acier, was completely enveloped in 
clouds ; and as the afternoon wore away and 
the mountain-climbers did not return, we 
began to feel some anxiety with regard to 
their safety. They made their appearance, 
however, about five o'clock, and reported 
that they had succeeded in reaching the sum- 
mit, but had been overtaken there by a 
severe thunder-storm, with sharp lightning 
and dense blinding clouds, which prevented 



them from finding their way beyond the 
eastern edge of what had been Lake Palmiste 
— ^. small pond that once occupied the bed 
of an ancient crater. There, at a height of 
about four thousand feet, they sat down 
among the volcanic bowlders, in a pouring 
rain, and waited three-quarters of an hour 
for a change of weather ; but as the storm 
continued, and as there seemed to be little 
prospect of locating or reaching the new 
crater that afternoon, they finally abandoned 
the attempt to find it, and came down the 
mountain in a tropical deluge which set the 
ashes sliding in every direction and threat- 
ened, at times, to sweep them oflF the narrow 
arete into the gorge of the Falaise. 

At a consultation which we held while sit- 
ting in rocking-chairs out on the lawn that 
evening, we decided that if the weather 
should prove favorable we would make an- 
other attempt to reach the summit crater on 
the following day. 

The morning of June i dawned perfectly 
clear, and when we went out into the front 
yard at five o'clock and looked at the vol- 
cano, we could see nothing whatever to indi- 



cate dangerous activity. The upper slopes 
of the mountain were cloudless ; everything 
was quiet in the gorge of the Falaise ; and 
the column of vapor which was rising slowly 
from the main crater seemed to consist 
wholly of pure white steam. Mademoiselle 
Marie, who was never absent when her pres- 
ence was needful, and never idle when she 
could do anything for our comfort, roused 
the servants at half-past four, attended to 
the preparation of an early breakfast and 
packed a generous basket of luncheon to be 
taken with us up the mountain. At six 
o'clock we drove in carriages to Vive, mount- 
ed saddle-mules that had been provided by 
Mr. Chancel, and rode away across the 
Capot bridge in the direction of Morne 

Although the arete that we intended to 
climb was in plain sight from the valley of 
the Capot, it was by no means easy of access. 
The lower slopes of Mont Pelee on the 
Vive side were intersected by deep barrancas, 
cut in the mountain side by intermittent 
torrents, and were covered, moreover, by a 
dense growth of uncut sugar-cane. The 


r • 



be moderate. Before I had ascended a thou- 
sand feet I was dripping with perspiration 
and panting for breath, and had to shout to 
the water-boy to bring me a drink. 

While I rested and recovered my breath, I 
had an opportunity to look about me and 
enjoy one of the most beautiful views in 
Martinique. The whole eastern coast of the 
island was in sight, from the promontory of 
Basse Pointe to the long, irregular peninsula 
that juts out into the ocean at Trinite. On the 
south we could see the steeple of the Morne 
Rouge church, Mont Calvary with its colossal 
crucifix, and the forest-clad peaks of Carbet ; 
while far away to the northward rose the 
misty outline of the island of Dominica, like 
a faint purple silhouette on the margin of an 
indigo-blue sea. The picturesque effect of 
the distant view was greatly enhanced by 
the utter desolation of the immediate fore- 
ground. At our left was the wild, chaotic 
gorge of the Falaise, in which there was not 
a sign of life nor a suggestion of color other 
than leaden gray ; while beyond it we looked 
into the broad fertile valley of Champ Flore, 
where everything was vividly green, and 



where the scattered clumps of mango trees 
and cocoanut palms were linked together by 
silvery streams running through verdant 
fields of young sugar-cane to the Capot. 
Around and above us we could see only 
bare gray slopes, covered with ashes, cinders 
and volcanic stones ; but far away to the 
eastward were the green buttresses of Morne 
Jacob, the red roofs of Grande Anse and 
Marigot, the costal fringe of snowy surf, and 
the deep-blue plain of the ocean, whose 
boundary line seemed to be halfway up the 

When I stopped to rest, Mr. Varian, who 
seemed to be the strongest and most ener- 
getic climber in the party, was six or eight 
hundred feet above me, and Prof Heilprin, 
with Mr. Jaccaci and three or four porters, 
was about as far below. In a few moments 
Heilprin joined me and said that Jaccaci was 
suffering from temporary dizziness. At a 
height of about 2,800 feet, where the arete 
narrowed to a rather sharp edge, with a 
profoundly deep gorge on either side, he had 
been attacked by mountain sickness with 
vertigo, and had been forced to stop. We 


sent one of the porters back to him with a 
bottle of Mr. Clerc's " cyclone " wine, and 
went on up the mountain — thinking that he 
would feel better in a few moments and fol- 
low us ; but he did not recover from the 
dizziness and had to return. I think I should 
have been tempted to give it up and return 
myself, if Mr. Hqilprin, who is an expe- 
rienced mountaineer, had not encouraged 
me and shown me how to climb. There 
happened that day to be little or no breeze ; 
the heat on the bare, desolate ash-slope was 
simply prostrating ; and as a result of trying 
to climb too rapidly I felt as if I were going 
to have a sunstroke. Professor Heilprin, 
however, insisted that I would get up all 
right if I would only go slowly. " Take it 
easy ! Take it easy, Mr. Kennan 1" he 
shouted every five minutes. " WeVe got 
all day before us. Don't get overheated. 
Stop every ten steps and rest. One of the 
first things that my Alpine guides taught me 
was to climb slowly." I finally did climb 
slowly and began to feel better. 

Clouds gathered about the mountain as 
we approached the summit, and when we 



rents of water that rush into the ravines and 
deeply eroded channels of the volcano during 
heavy storms loosen up the ashes and set 
them sliding in every direction ; and if a man 
should lose his bearings in the clouds and 
start down an arete leading into the precipi- 
tous gorge of the Falaise, he could not pos- 
sibly retrace his steps against the down-rush- 
ing flood of mud and water, and would very 
likely come to grief. I therefore picked out 
a big, flat-topped bowlder at the head of the 
Balais arete, and laid half a dozen stones 
across the top of it in a line with Vive, so 
that they might serve as a guide in case of 

As it was impossible to explore the moun- 
tain top in a mist that hid everything from 
sight at a distance of twenty feet, there 
was nothing to do but wait patiently for a 
change of weather. I was surprised to find 
that on the very summit of the volcano 
there were no ashes at all. The ground 
seemed to be made up wholly of cinders and 
sharp-edged rock-fragments which had evi- 
dently been thrown out of the main crater 
in recent eruptions. Some of the rock- 



masses were large, many of them had been 
completely calcined, and all showed the 
effects of intense heat ; but I saw none that 
had actually been fused, and of mud or lava 
there was not a trace. 

In fifteen or twenty minutes the clouds 
blew away and the atmosphere cleared so 
that we could see the whole outline of the 
shallow oval basin that once held the water 
of Lake Palmiste. It was perfectly dry ; its 
bottom was covered with stones, cinders, and 
ragged masses of volcanic rock ; and from 
every square yard of it rose thin wisps of hot 
vapor. The whole top of the mountain 
oozed steam. Professor Heilprin got out 
his pocket thermometer and found that the 
temperature of the ground in a number of 
places and at various depths ranged from 
124^ to 162^ Fahrenheit. Directly opposite 
the point where we stood, on the other side 
of the lake-bed, rose a black pinnacle of rock 
1 50 or 200 feet in height, which we took to 
be Morne Lacroix. This was, and probably 
still is, the highest peak of the volcano ; but 
a part of it has been blown away, or has fallen 
into the new crater at its base, so that the 



remainder is merely a fragment of the ori^nal 

One hundred and fifty or two hundred 
yards away, near what seemed to be the 
southwestern end of the lake-bed, there was 
a gentle slope which rose twenty -five or thirty 
feet to a sharp edge ; and just beyond this 
edge was the ascending vapor-column of the 
main crater. Picking our way carefully 
among the big bowlders, we crossed the 
lake-bed diagonally and walked up the gentle 
slope to the sharp edge, at a point about 
seventy-five feet north of the ascending col- 
umn of steam. I expected, of course, to look 
over that edge into the crater ; but I thought 
that on the other side there would probably 
be a gradual downward slope into something 
like a huge circular bowl. I was tremen- 
dously startled, therefore, to find myself sud- 
denly on the very brink of a frightful chasm 
fifty or seventy-five feet across and hun- 
dreds of feet in depth, out of which came a 
roar like that of a Titanic forge with the bel- 
lows at work, and a curious crackling sound 
which suggested the splitting of rocks in in- 
tense heat. The wall of the chasm under 




sure was a central cone of volcanic debris. 
The height of the lake-bed, as shown by 
Prof. Heilprin's aneroid, was 4,025 feet, and 
the edge of the crater was probably 25 or 
30 feet higher. We were unable to de- 
termine with accuracy the trend of the crater- 
fissure, owing to the derangement of our 
compasses by the strong magnetic influence 
of the volcano ; but it seemed to me that 
the part of the chasm we saw ran nearly 
north and south, curving to the westward at 
the northern end, where it disappeared in a 
cloud of steam. 

We were all so overawed by the terrific 
grandeur of the deep, roaring chasm that for 
two or three minutes we stood on the brink 
of it, motionless and silent. Then Professor 
Heilprin shouted to me, " Oh, isn't it fine 
to see these great operations of Nature ! " 

"Yes," I replied, "but if you've seen all 
you want to of this particular operation, I 
would suggest that we get off this edge. It 
looks to me as if it overhung, and it might 
cave away and carry us all down into the 
crater — it's nothing but cinders and stones." 

I had hardly finished making this prudent 



suggestion when a great swirl of gray clouds 
hid everything from sight, and we were 
hardly able to find our way back through 
the mist and steam to the big white bowlder 
at the head of the arete where we had left 
our coats, luncheon, and water-bottles. We 
remained on the summit fifteen or twenty 
minutes longer, hoping that it would clear 
up enough to give us another view of the 
crater-chasm ; but while we were eating our 
luncheon the clouds grew denser and darker, 
and, fearing that we should be caught on the 
summit in a thunder-storm, we hastily 
started downward. Rain began to fall a few 
moments later, and we had hardly crossed 
the narrow, dangerous part of the arete when 
it was flooded by the worst storm that we 
experienced in Martinique. Water fell from 
the low-hanging clouds in sheets ; and when 
we reached the half-deserted village near the 
foot of the arete, Professor Heilprin sought 
shelter. As we were already drenched to the 
skin, Varian and I rode on ; but we were 
soon stopped by an impassable torrent in 
one of the deep barrancas. We then returned 
to the village and separated, Varian going 



in search of Professor Heilprin, while I took 
refuge in an empty shack by the roadside. 
Rain fell for an hour and a half in blinding 
sheets, with vivid lightning and heavy thun- 
der, and muddy water rushed through the 
lower part of the village in such raging tor- 
rents that I more than half expected to be 
overwhelmed by a Basse Pointe flood. I 
could neither get down to Vive nor back to 
the part of the village where Heilprin and 
Varian were. I tried once to rejoin them, 
but was stopped by a chocolate-colored cat- 
aract that would have carried away a house. 
Returning to my shack, I practiced calis- 
thenics at intervals for an hour or more to 
counteract the chill of my wet clothing. By 
that time the storm had abated, and as soon 
as the flood-water ran off so that I could 
pass the cataract, I went in search of Heil- 
prin and Varian. I found them sitting with 
half a dozen of our negro porters and guides 
in a wretched little eight-by-ten cabin near 
the highest part of the settlement. The na- 
tive who owned the shack mixed for me a 
refreshing drink of lime-juice, sugar-syrup 
and rum, and we sat there discussing Mar- 



the deserted shacks of the village near the 
foot of the arete, and had begun the ascent 
from there at daybreak, we should have had 
a clear atmosphere on the summit for two 
or three hours, and should probably have 
been able to make something like an accu- 
rate survey of the main crater. 




ON the 2d of June, Mr. Jaccaci, Mr. 
Varian, and I decided to return to 
Fort de France. We had made as 
thorough an examination of Mont Pelee as 
it was possible to make on the eastern side, 
and it seemed to us that the best thing to do 
next would be to charter a tug or vessel of 
some sort in Fort de France and cruise along 
the base of the volcano from Carbet to 
Grande Riviere, or Macouba, stopping at 
St. Pierre, Precheur, and other points of in- 
terest on our way back. Professor Heilprin 
and Mr. Leadbeater, who had not yet vis- 
ited Morne Rouge, wanted to go there for 
a day, but they promised to rejoin us on 
Wednesday in Fort de France and go with 
us up the western coast. 



We left Acier about nine o'clock, and 
found the seacoast road full of fugitives, as 
usual; but they were not all bound in the 
same direction. Nearly half of them were 
apparently on their way back to their homes 
in Morne Rouge, Ajoupa Bouillon, and 
Macouba. For more than a month, after 
Mont Pelee began to be active in May, the 
whole population of Northern Martinique 
lived an anxious, restless, migratory life. 
Every time there was an eruption — or even 
an unusual boiling out of vapor from the main 
crater — hundreds of families living on the 
flanks of the volcano, or around its base, 
caught up hurriedly such household gdods 
and utensils and such supplies of food as 
they could carry on their heads, and fled to 
a distance of five, ten, or fifteen miles, accord- 
ing to the intensity of their fear. Then, 
when the volcano quieted down, they gradu- 
ally straggled back to their homes, only to 
be driven away again by a fresh outburst 
Old women who could hardly hobble along 
with a cane, cripples, mothers with young 
babies in their arms, and children only five 
or six years of age walked three or four 




time, whether we should get anywhere before 
morning. About half-past nine, however, 
we saw the twinkle of lights ahead, and 
twenty minutes later we entered the quiet 
village of St. Joseph. As there was no hotel 
in the place, we hardly knew where to seek 
shelter ; but at the suggestion of two French 
gentlemen, who happened to be standing on 
the street and who volunteered to accompany 
us, we drove to the house of the cure. 
Father Jourdan had already gone to bed; 
but he got up at once, gave us a most cor- 
dial welcome, invited the two French gentle- 
men to come in, had supper prepared, and 
in half an hour we were all sitting around a 
small dining-table discussing Mont Pclce — 
the one absorbing topic of conversation in all 

After a comfortable and refreshing night's 
rest and a good breakfast, we started again for 
Fort de France ; drove into the city about 
eleven o'clock, and received a hearty greet- 
ing from Consul Ayme, who was beginning 
to feel some anxiety with regard to our safety. 
We had been absent twelve days, and it was 
feared that something might have happened 

1 66 


to us in the eruptions of May 26 and 28. 
Professor Heilprin and Mr. Leadbeater came 
in from Morne Rouge Tuesday evening, 
June 3, and early on the morning of the 5th, 
having chartered the tug Rubis at five hun- 
dred francs per day, we steamed out of the 
harbor and up the western coast of the 

In approaching St. Pierre by water from 
Fort de France, the first noticeable signs of 
volcanic activity appear at the village of Car- 
bet, which is situated about a mile and a half 
south of the city, on the margin of a gently 
rounded cape. The eastern edge of the vol- 
canic hurricane of May 8 just touched this 
settlement, scorching the cocoanut trees and 
setting fire to a few houses at its northern 
end, but leaving intact the central and south- 
ern parts of the village, which were protected 
to some extent by high intervening bluflTs. 
Trees standing on the hills behind Carbet 
and between it and St. Pierre show that the 
radiating, fan-shaped blast from the volcano 
extended eastward just far enough to sweep 
the city, and that a slight change in its direc- 
tion would have made all the diflference be- 



tween life and death to more than thirty 
thousand people. The advancing front of 
the hurricane, where it struck the ocean, 
probably had a width of about four miles; 
and St. Pierre was half or three-quarters of a 
mile inside of its eastern boundary line. 

As we rounded the high cape of Carbet 
our field of view widened to the northward 
so as to include the whole gray, desolate 
slope of the volcano, from St. Pierre to Pre- 
cheur, and from the dark-blue ocean to the 
broken trade-wind clouds that just drifted 
across the summit. At first sight and from 
that distance it looked like a sloping, fan- 
shaped plain of mud and ashes which had 
been cut into deep valleys, ravines, and 
gorges by raging torrents poured out of a 
wide, V-shaped cleft just under the main 
crater. Of the great forests that once clothed 
the upper part of the slope there remained 
not a trace. They had either been carried 
down by torrents and landslides or torn to 
pieces by volcanic hurricanes, and then 
buried under seventy-five or a hundred feet 
of ashes and mud. On the hills back of St 
Pierre there were still a few branchless trees, 

1 68 


La Mare, just south of Precheur, to the north- 
ern end of Sl Pierre. Within the triangle 
that would be bounded by lines drawn 
through these points there is absolutely noth- 
ing except mud, ashes, steam, water, and 
stones. Every tree, every house, and every 
sign of vegetation has disappeared. Although 
for a distance of a mile or two outside of these 
limits crops have been ruined and trees have 
been denuded of their foliage by showers of 
ashes or muddy rain, the crops and the trees are 
still there, while inside of the triangle there is 
not a trace nor a vestige of life. 

As we steamed northward, beyond Pre- 
cheur, blasted trees and withered vegetation 
became less and less noticeable ; the moun- 
tain slopes changed in tint from ash-gray to 
brown and finally to dark green, and after 
we passed Pearl Rock, about three miles 
north of Precheur, I should not have known, 
from the color of the foliage or the general 
appearance of the landscape, that there was 
an active volcano on the island. We were 
nearer to the main crater than we had been 
at Vive ; but the deposit of ashes on this part 
of the coast seemed to be much thinner than 



As we came out from under the shelter of 
the land off Grande Riviere we met a heavy 
swell raised by the fresh northeast trade- 
wind ; and as we did not care to attempt a 
landing in the surf that was rolling on the 
beach, we put about just beyond Macouba, 
ran back to Precheur, and went ashore there 
to see what damage had been done by the 
great flood that rushed down on the town 
through the valley of the Precheur River. 

The first thing that attracted our attention, 
as we stepped upon the beach, was the great 
quantity of volcanic dust which covered the 
ground, incrusted with a thin gray plaster 
the walls of the abandoned houses, and lay, 
here and there, in deep, half-compacted 
drifts, along the empty streets. Much of 
this dust had, doubtless, been washed down 
from the mountain slopes by torrential 
rains ; but hundreds of tons of it must have 
fallen, like snow, from above. The steady 
trade-wind had been carrying the vapor from 
Mont Pelee directly over Precheur, day after 
day, for weeks ; and as that vapor was almost 
always charged with dust, even when the 
volcano was not in active eruption, there 



seemed to be pouring down upon them 
from some great fissure in the mountain-side, 
thousands of feet above their heads. 

Near the centre of the little town we found, 
in a rather large wooden building overlooking 
the sea, the hall of the " Societe de Secours 
Mutuel: L' Union des Dames," which had 
been used, apparently, as a place of recre- 
ation, instruction, and assembly. There were 
blackboards on two sides of the room, check- 
ers and dice were still lying on the tables, 
framed copies of the by-laws of the society 
and lists of active and honorary members had 
been tacked against the wall between cheap 
chromo-lithographs of the Emperor and Em- 
press of Russia, and from the ceiling hung 
scraps of ribbon and colored Japanese lanterns 
that had been used, apparently, to decorate 
the hall for some recent festivity. Everything 
was gray with dust, which had blown in at the 
open windows, and the furniture was all in 
disorder, as if some one had rushed in hur- 
riedly and ransacked the place in an attempt 
to save everything of value that could be car- 
ried away. 

The greater part of the town seemed to 



feet long by ten or twelve feet in thickness, 
and must have contained at least twenty-five 
hundred cubic feet. When these colossal 
masses of rock came down that ravine in a 
flood that would have swept away and de- 
stroyed a battle-ship, the roar must have been 
like that of Niagara, and I do not wonder 
that the terrified inhabitants of Precheur 

Until the slopes of the volcano above the 
town shall have been carefully examined, it 
will be impossible to say with certainty where 
this deluge of water came from ; but I am of 
opinion that it was nothing more than a cloud- 
burst, due mainly to the sudden condensation 
and precipitation of immense quantities of 
volcanic steam. Professor Palmieri, of the 
University of Naples, says that great erup- 
tions of Vesuvius were almost always followed 
by heavy storms of rain, which descended in 
muddy torrents, and caused as much damage 
as the lava itself. Sir Archibald Geikie, too, 
asserts that " the destructive torrents so fre- 
quently observed to form part of the phe- 
nomena of great volcanic explosions " are due, 
chiefly, to " the condensation of the vast 



activity in two or three days. The summit- 
crater was smoking as usual, the front of the 
mud-glacier was steaming a little as it pushed 
down into the sea, and small jets or clouds of 
vapor were rising in half a dozen places from 
the hot, bare slope ; but the sub-crater in the 
valley of the Riviere Blanche was absolutely 
quiet, and the volcano^ as a whole, seemed to 
be taking a rest. I watched the shore party 
as they landed from the small boat, and saw 
them walk three or four hundred yards up 
the river in the direction of a steaming fuma- 
role. Then I lost sight of them for a few 
moments as they went down, apparently, into 
the bed of the stream. Five minutes later my 
attention was attracted to a white cloud of 
pure steam which came racing down the upper 
gorge of the Riviere Blanche as if it were 
rising from a swiftly advancing torrent of 
boiling water. It looked dangerous, and I 
wanted to shout a warning to the party ashore ; 
but they were still out of sight and my voice 
would not carry half the distance. In a mo- 
ment, however, they reappeared, and I saw 
that they had taken alarm and were running 
for the boat. They had hardly reached it 



when dense mud-smoke made its appearance 
in the high V-shaped gorge near the summit 
of the mountain and began to boil out of the 
upper valley of the Riviere Blanche. Two 
or three minutes later, before they had had 
time to get more than a hundred feet from the 
dangerous coast, there was a sudden and tre- 
mendous explosion from both craters, and an 
enormous mass of dark yellow vapor was pro- 
jected upward in rolling, expanding convolu- 
tions, not only from the craters themselves, 
but apparently from the entire length of the 
fissure that united them. Then, from the 
lower crater, a huge cloud seemed to roll 
slowly down the slope in the direction of the 
boat, and the whole western face of the vol- 
cano burst into the most terrifying activity. 
A flood of boiling water, with a wave-front 
eight or ten feet high, rushed down the 
Riviere Blanche and precipitated itself into the 
sea with a great hissing and steaming ; explo- 
sions in half a dozen different places sent big, 
fountain-like jets of white vapor to heights 
of two or three hundred feet ; geysers of 
liquid mud leaped into the air through the 
clouds of steam that suddenly began to rise 



from the lower slopes ; and the tremendous 
column of mud-smoke from the crater of the 
Riviere Blanche boiled .up to a height of 
more than half a mile and then began to open 
out in huge, cauliflower-like heads. 

The captain of the Rubis rang the bell for 
full speed ahead and ran directly out to sea, 
regardless of the men in the small boat, who 
were making frantic efforts to get away from 
the coast. I tapped him on the shoulder and 
said, " You must go back for the boat." He 
shook his head, and pointing at the really 
frightful- looking vapor-column over the lower 
crater said, " Bad ! Ver' bad ! " 

" Yes," I said, " of course it's bad ; but 
you've got to go back for that boat." 

He kept on his course two or three min- 
utes longer, and then, having had time to 
think a little, threw the wheel hard-a-star- 
board, came round in a big circle, and ran 
back toward the land. In five minutes more 
we had the shore party safely on board and 
were again running out to sea. Mr. Jaccaci 
wiped his perspiring face, gazed for a moment 
in silence at the volcano, which was then al- 
most hidden in smoke, steam and falling 

1 80 






sudden torrents with a high wave-front was, 
perhaps, due to the formation and rupture 
of big dams. The sides of the gorges and 
ravines above the lower crater were very 
steep, and avalanches of ashes might slide 
off them and block up the channel of the 
stream below, so as to dam the water back 
and form a large pond. Sooner or later the 
increasing volume of water would burst the 
dam, and the whole mass would rush steam- 
ing down to the sea in a big flood. Then, 
too, the channels of these streams were 
deeply eroded in a mass of loose, incoherent 
volcanic ejectamenta, and dams may have 
been formed frequently by the undercutting 
of the stream and the caving away of the 
undermined banks. It seems to me more 
reasonable, on the whole, to explain the 
intermittent floods in this way than to sup- 
pose that the lower crater was throwing out 
hot water every fifteen minutes or half an 

We cruised or drifted oflT the mouth of 
the Riviere Blanche for several hours, and 
saw another eruption from the lower crater 
which threw a huge column of mud-smoke 



to a height of four or five thousand feet. It 
had a very menacing and terrifying appear- 
ance, but as the direction of the discharge was 
upward, and the rain of ashes that fell from 
it struck the ocean north of us, in the vicin- 
ity of Precheur, we felt less apprehension 
than at the time of the first eruption, when 
we were nearer the coast. If we could have 
foreseen, however, what was about to happen 
on that side of the volcano, we should have 
watched these outbursts with a feeling of 
much greater anxiety and dread. 

At ten o'clock the next morning, when the 
French cable steamer Pouyer Quertier was 
grappling for a broken cable about five miles 
off the mouth of the Riviere Blanche, there 
was an eruption of tremendous violence, 
which threw up a vapor-column that mush- 
roomed to a width of fifty miles, and covered 
the whole island with the darkness of a total 
eclipse. At the same time a black hurricane- 
cloud, precisely like the one that destroyed 
St. Pierre, burst out of the mountain-side, 
swept over the place where we were drifting 
the previous afternoon, and went five miles 
to sea, covering the Pouyer Quertier with 



ashes and small stones, and overwhelming 
four or five natives who happened to be 
passing in small boats on their way to Pre- 
cheur. If we had happened to go up the 
western coast Friday instead of Thursday, 
our volcano investigations would probably 
have come to an end, because at ten o'clock 
our tug was lying close to the mouth of the 
Riviere Blanche, directly in the track of the 
tornado blast, and Heilprin, Jaccaci, and 
Varian were just going ashore. 



FROM the mouth of the Riviere Blanche 
we ran down to St. Pierre and landed 
on the slope of the Place Bertin, 
nearly opposite the ruins of the old cathedral. 
The site of the city was a crescent-shaped 
strip of land, about a mile in length and four 
hundred yards in extreme width, lying be- 
tween the curve of the ocean beach and the 
corresponding curve of a very steep ridge or 
hill. At the northern end of the crescent was 
the Riviere des Peres, backed by the im- 
mense green slope of Mont Pelee, and at the 
southern end, on a high rocky promontory, 
stood the Morne d'Orange Battery and the 
colossal white statue of the Virgin Mary. 
The ridge or hill which formed the back of 



the crescent, and which half inclosed the city 
on that side, was originally covered with grass, 
flowering shrubs, and festoons of hanging 
vines ; and it must have made a beautiful 
green background for the mass of gabled, red- 
roofed houses which rose toward it in undu- 
lating slopes and irregular terraced lines from 
the curving margin of the dark-blue sea. 
The principal street of the city was the Rue 
Victor Hugo, which ran from one end of the 
crescent to the other, and which was crossed 
at intervals by shorter streets leading up from 
the ocean to the face of the high and partly 
terraced ridge. The buildings were generally 
two or three stories in height, and their walls 
were almost invariably made of rubble laid up 
in cement and faced with plaster or stucco. 
Although these walls were often three feet in 
thickness, they had comparatively little struc- 
tural strength or resisting power, owing to the 
fact that they were composed of rounded 
stones, and were held together by a rather 
friable pouzzolane of volcanic tuff. They 
crumbled and fell, therefore, much more eas- 
ily than if they had been made of rectangular 
blocks with a binding of good mortar or 



a tranquil, indigo-blue sea. After the catas- 
trophe, it was a wrecked, ruined city of the 
dead, wrapped in a gray winding-sheet of 
volcanic ashes. 

The first impression that it made upon me 
when I landed on the wreck-strewn beach of 
the Place Bertin was one of loneliness, still- 
ness, grayness, and almost unimaginable des- 
olation. There was no color, no structural 
form, no traceable plan, and no sign whatever 
of recent life. Turning one's back to the 
ocean and looking toward the bluff, across the 
shattered walls and shapeless piles of ash-in- 
crusted stones, one might have imagined that 
he was looking at the ruins of a big pueblo in 
an Arizona desert, which had been destroyed 
by a frightful earthquake a hundred years 
before. It was almost impossible to realize, 
or even to believe, that, within a month, this 
had been a bright, gay, beautiful city of thirty 
thousand inhabitants. Here and there stood 
gaunt, fire-scorched trunks of trees, from which 
all branches had been torn away, and over 
the brown face of the steep ridge hung leaf- 
less remains of luxuriant vines ; but, with 
these exceptions, there was nothing to indicate 



the chaos of wreckage, in almost any direc- 
tion, over piles of rubble, sheets of metallic 
roofing, steel braces or girders, masses of tree 
branches, iron bedsteads, smashed roofing-tiles, 
tangled telephone wire, burst-open safes and 
great mounds of ash-plastered building-stones, 
blocking up and almost obliterating the nar- 
row streets. Even if I had been perfectly 
familiar with the city, I should have had great 
difficulty in finding my way about ; and with- 
out such familiarity I could not orient myself 
at all. It was often impossible for me to de- 
termine whether I was in a street or in the 
midst of a ruined block of buildings. Of 
course, in a city that has been so completely 
wrecked there is little to describe. One can 
only say that it is a chaotic mass of rubble, 
plaster, roofing-tiles and shattered walls, with 
here and there the fire-scorched branchless 
trunk of a big tree. 

With a view to ascertaining, if possible, the 
source and direction of the hurricane that 
caused this unparalleled destruction, I made 
a careful examination of standing walls and 
fallen trees. The highest walls were gener- 
ally those that ran north and south and the 



a little and fired, the projectiles from them 
would go over or into the V-shaped notch, or 
amphitheater, just below the main crater. 
From that point, or near that point, must 
have come, therefore, the blast that pros- 
trated them. 

I was able to make some observations also 
that have a more or less direct bearing upon 
the temperature of the blast and its dura- 
tion. In all parts of the city, and particu- 
larly at its southern end, there were quanti- 
ties of wooden wreckage, in the shape of 
beams, planks, barrels, and fragments of 
roofing, that had not been burned, nor even 
singed. The trunks of green trees showed 
no traces of fire, unless they had happened 
to stand where they were scorched or ignited 
by the heat of burning buildings. Bunches 
of dry grass on the Morne d' Orange had 
been burned nearly to the ground ; but the 
delicate twigs of living trees and bushes in 
the same locality were apparently uninjured. 
The blast was hot enough to destroy human 
life and to set fire to objects of a particularly 
inflammable nature ; but it was not hot 
enough, or did not last long enough, to kill 



the catastrophe, says that the bodies of the 
dead were generally distorted and had the 
color of burned coffee. Most of them lay 
in the streets, where they had been subjected 
to the heat of burning buildings, and it was 
impossible to determine, by mere inspection, 
whether the condition in which they were 
found was due to the blast or to the subse- 
quent conflagration. In some cases all cloth- 
ing had been burned or torn off, while in 
others underclothing and corsets remained. 
Light outer garments were invariably gone. 
A very large number of bodies had burst at 
the abdomen;* all spongy, cellular tissues 
were greatly distended, and many skulls had 
parted at the sutures, without any indication 
of external injury. As decomposition, at 
that time, had hardly begun, Mr. Parravicino 
thinks that these efl^ects were not due to that 
cause. They suggested rather a sudden re- 
moval of atmospheric pressure, brought 

* The photog^ph of a man under the branches of a tam- 
arind tree, which was taken by direction of Vicar-General 
Parel (^Century Magazine, August, 1902, p. 615) and which 
has been reproduced by many American newspapers, shows 
this effect. 



about in some way by the blast. The fact 
that many bodies were found in this condi- 
tion seems to me worthy of record, inasmuch 
as it rests upon the testimony of two un- 
usually intelligent and observant men — Mr. 
Parravicino and Major Mirville, chief phar- 
macist of the Military Hospital at Fort de 
France. It is greatly to be regretted that 
the physicians and surgeons of Martinique 
did not make a series of careful post-mortem 
examinations immediately after the catastro- 
phe. Many questions of scientific importance 
might thus have been settled that must now 
remain in doubt. 

Evidences of the force of the volcanic 
blast that destroyed the city presented them- 
selves at almost every step. Rubble walls 
three feet in thickness had been torn to 
pieces as if made of dominoes or kinder- 
garten blocks ; century-old trees had been 
uprooted or stripped of all their branches ; 
six-inch guns, nine or ten feet in length, 
had been dismounted in the Morne d'Or- 
ange Battery ; and the colossal statue of the 
Virgin Mary, which weighed at least two 
or three tons, had been blown off its pedestal 



and carried to a distance of forty or fif^ 
feet. Such effects could hardly have beea 
produced by a blast of lower velocity thtttt 
hundred miles an hour. r . « 

It is a remarkable fact that St. Herre wu 
struck by two volcanic hurricanes of equal 
severity— one occurring at 8.02 a.m. on the 
8th of May, and the other about 5.15 A.if. 
on the 20th. As we reached Fort de France 
in the cruiser Dixie at 6 a.m. on the 21st, we 
missed the second blast by exactly twenty- 
four hours. If we had sailed from New York 
one day earlier, we should have been just ofF 
Mont Pelee when the second tornado-cloud 
rolled down on the ill-fated city. 

Photographs taken between May 8 and 
May 20 show that the second blast must 
have had quite as much energy as the first 
Before the 20th, the walls of hundreds of 
buildings in the central part of the city were 
standing two and three stories high ; while 
after that date there were very few that stood, 
four-square, even as high as the top of the 
first story. The blast of May 8 wrecked the 
cathedral and threw down one of its twin 
towers ; but all four walls of the othen as 





a private dwelling. The buildings them- 
selves had been razed to their foundation 

Although the walls left standing, after the 
blast of the 8th, had doubtless been weak- 
ened, to some extent, by fire, they still had 
the appearance of great solidity, and could 
hardly have been overthrown by anything 
less destructive than a second hurricane. An 
earthquake might have demolished them, 
but no earth tremors were noticed at Mome 
Rouge or Fort de France, and no buildings 
were injured outside the area swept by the 
blast It seems almost certain, therefore, 
that Mont Pelee fired two rounds at St. Pierre 
from its gigantic volcanic gun, without chang- 
ing the aim ; and that the second discharge 
completed the work of destruction begun by 
the first. Both eruptions were accompanied, 
or immediately followed, by torrential rains 
or cloud-bursts, and a deluge of water swept 
immense quantities of volcanic dust down the 
slopes of the mountain, in the shape of soft, 
pasty mud. This mud filled the valley of 
the Roxelane almost up to the floors of the 
bridges, buried many houses out of sight at 



the northern end of St. Pierre, and rushed 
into the sea so suddenly and in such enor- 
mous volumes as to produce a series of 
small tidal waves, which were observed and 
measured at Fort de France. 

At the time when we visited St. Pierre all 
the bodies of the dead that could easily be 
recovered had been collected and burned; 
but thousands more lay buried in the ruins 
of the houses, or under heaps of wreckage 
and debris in the streets. They cannot be 
removed without extensive excavation, and 
they will doubtless lie there until only the 
bones are left. I doubt very much whether, 
in the lifetime of the present generation, any 
attempt will be made to rebuild the city. 
Wrecked towns are usually rebuilt by their 
surviving inhabitants ; but St. Pierre has no 
surviving inhabitants — its whole population 
perished— and the impression made by the 
great disaster upon the people of the island 
was so deep, and the fear of the volcano is 
now so intense, that no men of the present 
generation are likely to make homes for 
themselves in that fire-scorched, ash-buried 
valley of death. 



We wandered over the ruins of the wrecked 
city for an hour and a half or two hours, and 
were then driven by a heavy rain to the shel- 
ter of the tug. As soon as the shower passed, 
we ran up again to the mouth of the Riviere 
Blanche, and watched the play of steam-jets 
and mud-geysers on that side of the moun- 
tain until the sun was low in the west. As 
there were no more extraordinary manifesta- 
tions of volcanic energy, and as we were all 
tired, hungry and wet, we finally returned, 
just before dark, to Fort de France. 




IN previous chapters 1 have tried to de- 
scribe, as fully and accurately as possi- 
ble, the appearance and behavior of 
Mont Pelee during the time that it was un- 
der my observation. It is my purpose now 
to give a brief account of the destruction of 
St. Pierre ; to bring together and compare 
the statements of a dozen or more persons 
who witnessed the catastrophe ; and to make 
an attempt, at least, to answer the questions, 
" What happened ? In what way did it hap- 
pen ? " and " What were the proximate causes 
of the disaster ? " 

Mont Pelee has been active only once be- 
fore within historic times. On the 5th of 
August, 1 851, it rumbled or thundered for a 



few hours, and threw up a column of vapor 
which sprinkled ashes over its southwestern 
face from St. Pierre to Precheur; but the 
eruption was neither violent nor destructive, 
and soon subsided. A scientific commission, 
which made a careful examination of the 
mountain shortly afterward, found a few small 
craterlets and hot springs near the source of 
the Riviere Blanche, and a deep, narrow fissure 
— since known as the Fente, or Terre Fen- 
due — which seemed to cut the top of the 
mountain into halves just west of Lake Palm- 
iste ; but the area of disturbance was small 
and the manifestations of activity were com- 
paratively feeble. The Etang Sec, or Dry 
Lake, was found to be situated a short dis- 
tance east of the craterlets and hot springs, 
at a height of 2,871 feet. Its basin, although 
ordinarily dry, then contained five times as 
much water as the basin of Lake Palmiste, 
on the summit, and both lakes were thought 
to be the bowls of ancient craters. 

As the result of its examination, the com- 
mission reported that the volcanic disturbance 
had been confined to a small area in the upper 
valley of the Riviere Blanche ; that there had 



been no perceptible change in the configura- 
tion of the mountain ; that the old craters, 
fitang Sec and Lake Palmiste, were full of 
water ; and that no danger was to be appre- 

For half a century thereafter the volcano 
remained quiescent ; and Lake Palmiste, the 
basin of the ancient summit crater, became a 
favorite place of resort for excursionists and 
picnic parties from St. Pierre. The basin of 
the Etang Sec was not so often visited, on ac- 
count of its comparative inaccessibility, but 
it could be seen from the heights above ; it 
had been overgrown by vegetation and it was 
generally dry. 

The first signs of a renewal of volcanic ac- 
tivity were observed in April of the present 
year. M. Landes, professor of natural 
sciences in the St. Pierre Lycee, noticed steam- 
ing fumaroles in the upper valley of the 
Riviere Blanche as early as April 2 ; but 
there was nothing like an eruption until the 
25th, when the volcano suddenly began to 
smoke and throw out ashes. A party of in- 
vestigators set out at once from St. Pierre, 
and upon reaching the summit of Morne 



Lacroix — a pinnacle of the volcano which 
overlooks Lake Palmiste on one side and the 
£tang Sec on the other — discovered that the 
basin of the Dry Lake was filling with water. 
A few days later a larger party, consisting of 
Mfessrs. Boulin, Waddy, Decord, Bouteuil, 
Ange and Berte, ascended the mountain, by 
way, apparently, of the Riviere Blanche, 
and, after struggling for an hour through a 
dense, tangled forest, came out on the very 
brink of the Etang Sec basin. They found 
it to be a gigantic bowl, half a mile in diam- 
eter, with a lake at the bottom and a new 
cinder-cone on one side of it near the eastern 
wall. The trees around the bowl were cov- 
ered with black volcanic dust, and there 
was a film of floating cinders on the sur- 
face of the water. No eruption from the 
cinder-cone took place while the party was 
watching it, but Messrs. Boulin and Berte be- 
lieved it to be the source of the smoke and 
ashes seen on the 25th. Professor Landes, 
on the other hand, who climbed nearly to the 
fitang Sec a few days later, thought that the 
smoke rose from the Fente, or cleft, first 
noticed by the scientific commission of 1852. 



All observers agreed that the manifestations 
of activity were at the highest part of the vol- 
cano, between the Etang Sec and Lake Palm- 
iste, and no one appears to have noticed 
anything that indicated a fissure in the gorge 
of the Riviere Blanche, or an opening in the 
place now occupied by the lower crater. 

Vapor continued to rise from the volcano 
at intervals on the 28th and 29th of April, 
and on the 30th there were occasional detona- 
tions and two or three slight earth-tremors. 
On the 2d of May the inhabitants of Precheur 
were frightened by a heavy and continuous 
shower of ashes ; but the people of St. Pierre 
were so little alarmed that they planned and ad- 
vertised a popular excursion to the new crater, 
to take place on Sunday, May 4. At 1 1.30 
that night, however, there was a violent erup- 
tion, accompanied by dense smoke, lightning 
and terrifying detonations, and the country 
people fled, from all parts of the mountain, 
to Precheur, Morne Rouge and St. Pierre. 
Ashes fell over the whole northern half of the 
island from Grande Riviere to Fort de France, 
and continued to fall on the western slope of 
the volcano throughout Saturday, May 3. 



The people of St. Pierre then began to take 
alarm. The worshipers in the cathedral 
became panic-stricken; all the schools and 
many of the stores were closed ; the proposed 
excursion to the crater was abandoned, and 
there was a general feeling of anxiety and 

The renewal of volcanic activity was ac- 
companied by heavy rains on the summit of 
the mountain, which filled up the colossal bowl 
of the £^tang Sec and sent floods of ash-laden, 
chocolate-colored water down the valleys of 
all the rivers between St. Pierre and Precheur. 
On the 5th of May, a little after noon, the 
lower bank of the Etang Sec was blown out 
by a volcanic explosion, or gave way under 
the increased pressure of water, and the whole 
lake suddenly rushed down the side of the 
mountain, from a height of nearly three thou- 
sand feet. In its fall it carried away trees, 
immense rocks, and thousands of tons of 
ashes, and by the time it reached the lower 
slopes it had become an avalanche of liquid 
ash-mud. Moving with the speed of an ex- 
press train, it struck the big sugar-mill of 
Guerin & Son, at the mouth of the Riviere 



Blanche ; swept it completely out of exist- 
ence, with young Guerin and thirty other 
persons ; and then plunged into the sea, 
overwhelming and sinking two yachts that 
were lying there at anchor, and raising a tidal 
wave which flooded the lower streets of St. 
Pierre and washed over all the beaches be- 
tween Grande Riviere and Fort de France. 
This catastrophe greatly alarmed the people 
of St. Pierre, and they began to leave the city 
at the rate of three hundred per day. Thou- 
sands of fugitives, however, flocked in from 
Precheur, Ste. Philomene, Morne Rouge 
and other villages on the flanks of the vol- 
cano, so that the population was increased 
rather than diminished. 

On the morning of the yth there was an- 
other eruption, accompanied by lightning, 
heavy explosions, and the appearance of in- 
candescent matter at the edge of the summit- 
fissure. This greatly increased the feeling of 
apprehension in St. Pierre, and every boat 
leaving for Fort de France that day was 
crowded with fugitives. The local newspaper, 
however {Les Colonies)^ deprecated the panic ; 
declared that the alarm was not justified ; and 




said, on the very eve of the catastrophe: 
" Mont Pelee is no more td be feared by St. 
Pierre than Vesuvius is feared by Naples. 
We confess that we cannot understand this 
panic. Where could one be better off than 
at St. Pierre ? " 

Some observers, however, who were famil- 
iar with Vesuvius, took a different view. In the 
roadstead off the city lay at anchor, that very 
day, the Italian bark Orsolina, Captain Ma- 
rino Leboffe, loading with sugar for Havre. 
Alarmed by the threatening appearance of the 
volcano. Captain Leboffe went to the shippers 
and said to them that he did not regard that 
roadstead as a safe place to be, and that he 
had decided to stop loading and sail for 

" But," objected the shippers, " you can't 
go yet; you haven't got half your cargo 

" That doesn't make any difference," re- 
plied the captain ; "I'd rather sail with half 
a cargo than run such a risk as a man must 
run here." 

The shippers assured him that Mont Pelee 
was not dangerous ; that it had thrown out 



smoke and ashes in the same way once be- 
fore, without doing any damage ; and that, in 
all probability, it wouldn't remain active a 
week. Even if it should, smoke and ashes 
couldn't hurt anybody. 

" I don't know anything about Mont Pe- 
lee," said Captain LebofFe, " but if Vesuvius 
were looking as your volcano looks this morn- 
ing, I'd get out of Naples ; and I'm going to 
get out of here." 

The shippers then became angry and told 
him that if he sailed without permission and 
with only half a cargo, he would get no clear- 
ance papers, and would be arrested as soon 
as he reached Havre. 

" All right ! " replied the imperturbable 
captain. " I'll take my chance of arrest, but I 
won't take any chances on that volcano. I'm 
going to get my anchor up and make sail just 
as soon as I get aboard." He bade them 
good-by and left them. The shippers then 
sent two customs officers to the bark, with 
instructions to stay on board and prevent her 
from leaving. The captain said to these 
officers: " Gentlemen, I'm going to sail from 
this port in less than an hour. If you want 



to go ashore, now is your time to do iL If 
you stay with me, I assure you I shall take 
you to France." 

When the sails were loosed, and the crew 
began to heave up the anchor, the customs 
officers hailed a passing boat and went ashore, 
threatening the captain with all the penalties 
of the law. 

Twenty-four hours later the shippers and 
the customs officers lay dead in the ruins of 
St. Pierre, and the bark Orsolina was far at 
sea, on her way to France. * 

When the morning of May 8 dawned, 
bright and sunshiny, there was nothing in the 
appearance of the volcano to excite appre- 
hension, except the immense column of vapor 
rising from the main crater. This was going 
to an unusual height, but it was not particu- 
larly dark in color, and a gende wind from 
the east carried most of the ashes from it in 

* The details of this incident were given to me by Mr. 
Nicola Emilio ParravicinOy Italian Consul at Barfoadoes, who 
lost a daughter at St. Pierre and spent a week or more search- 
ing the rains after the destruction of the city. The owncis 
of the Orsolina were the Brothers Pollio, of Meta, near Na^ 
pies. They owned also the Italian bark North American, 
which was lost in the catastrophe. 




the direction of Precheur, so that the atmos- 
phere south of the mountain was compara- 
tively clear. At seven o'clock that morning 
there were eighteen vessels at anchor in the 
roadstead, including the British steamer Rod- 
dam ; the repair steamer Grappler, of the 
West India and Panama Cable Company ; 
the steamer Roraima, of the Quebec Line, 
which had just arrived from Dominica ; the 
French ship Tamaya from Nantes ; and the 
Italian barks Theresa Lovigo, Franchesa 
Sa Cro Cuore, and North American. The 
repair steamer Pouyer Quertier, of the French 
Cable Company, had just gone out to grapple 
for a broken cable, and was about eight miles 
off the coast, nearly opposite the mouth ot 
Riviere Blanche. 

A little before eight o'clock there were 
three or four big-gun reports, like those that 
startled us at Vive on the night of May 26, 
and at two minutes past eight, by the time 
of the French Cable Company, the volcano 
suddenly exploded, with a great roar, in two 
different directions. One discharge, of in- 
tensely black vapor pierced with lightning- 
flashes, went directly upward from the main 


crater, while the other shot out laterally, ap- 
parently from a new fissure in the side of the 
mountain, and swept the whole southwestern 
slope from St. Pierre to the mouth of the 
Riviere La Mare. Both discharges consisted 
mainly of superheated steam carrying im- 
mense quantities of intensely hot dust, and 
both probably had an initial velocity of. five 
or six hundred feet per second.f If the dis- 
charge that went upward from the main crater 
had been directed downward, along the slope 
of the volcano, and the discharge that went 
downward from the fissure had been sent up- 
ward, through the main crater, the results 
would probably have been very much the 

As seen from Morne Rouge, from the 
Grande Reduit, from Mont Parnasse, from 
the vessels in the roadstead, and from the 
bridge of the Pouyer Quertier, eight miles 

f Mr. Robert Mallet, the eminent English authority on 
earthquakes and volcanoes, g^ves 600 feet per second as the 
initial velocity of a column of dust-charged vapor projected 
to a height of 4^225 feet from the crater of Vesuvius in the 
eruption of 1872. (Introduction to " The Eruption of Ve- 
suvius of 18721*^ by Professor Luigi Palmieri, p* 9if Lon- 
don, 1873.) 






color, which might have been a glow, was 
also noticed by Mr. Guirouard from the 
Grande Reduit and by Francesco d'Angelo 
from the deck of the Roraima ; but even this 
was not a flame-like appearance. Father 
Mary, at Mome Rouge, saw in the cloud 
what he called " fuses," or rocket-like bursts 
of gray smoke ; but they did not produce 
flame, and might have been caused by up- 
rushes of mud and steam from the slope 
over which the discharge was moving. The 
upper surface of the cloud, from his point of 
view — 1,400 feet above the sea — was level, 
like the surface of a great plain, and it looked, 
he said, ^^ as if all Martinique were sliding 
into the sea." 

When this blast of superheated steam and 
hot dust struck St. Pierre, with a velocity of 
not less than a hundred miles an hour, it 
produced all the effects that a West Indian 
hurricane would produce if the moving air had 
a temperature of, say, 250° Fahrenheit, and 
were sweeping along with it great quantities of 
fine sand and small stones which were even 
hotter than the blast that carried them. All 
the trees in the track of the discharge were 



blown down or stripped of their branches ; 
most of the houses were unroofed, partly de- 
molished, and set on fire by the hot dust ; 
and all of the vessels in the roadstead, except 
two, were capsized and totally wrecked. The 
British steamer Roddam, set free by the part- 
ing of her anchor-chain, succeeded in making 
her escape, and reached the island of St. Lu- 
cia with twelve of her officers and men dead, 
and ten others so severely burned that they 
had to be taken to a hospital. The masts, 
funnel, bridge, and boats of the Roraima were 
carried away by the tremendous force of the 
blast ; her decks were swept by a storm of 
stones, pumice, and hot ashes, and she took 
fire fore and aft. Only two of her passengers 
— little Margaret Stokes and her nurse — 
escaped alive, and out of her crew of forty- 
seven men, twenty-eight died from burns and 

The whole population of St. Pierre per- 
ished, with the exception of a woman in a 
cellar who died shortly after being taken out, 
and a negro prisoner in the dungeon of the 
city jail. Thousands were killed by stones 
and falling walls, and thousands more by the 



intense heat of the blast, and the still greater 
heat of the dust with which it was charged. 
From the fact that the hot hurricane did not 
instandy kill all of the sailors exposed to it 
on the Roddam and Roraima, it is fair to 
presume that it did not instandy kill all of 
the people exposed to it in St. Pierre ; but as 
the city took fire from end to end, and soon 
became a roaring furnace of flame, the badly 
burned survivors of the blast, who had no 
place of refuge, must finally have been 
roasted to death in the streets. The heat of 
the flaming city was so great that the steamer 
Marin, from Fort de France, which reached 
the scene of the disaster about 11:30 a. m., 
could not approach the shore. 

The discharge of the hot hurricane-cloud 
of steam and ashes from the lateral fissure of 
the volcano was followed almost immediately 
by total darkness, due pardy to the dust car- 
ried by the blast itself, and partly to the 
mushrooming out overhead of the vapor- 
column thrown up simultaneously from the 
main crater. It was not ordinary darkness, 
like that of a cloudy, moonless night, but the 
complete obscurity of a windowless cellar or 



a rain of liquid mud ; the thundering of the 
invisible volcano ; the cries and groans of the 
dying ; and the mysterious suddenness and 
horror of the whole catastrophe, must have 
shaken the nerves, and almost the reason, of 
the strongest and bravest men. 

The total darkness lasted about half an 
hour. Before nine o'clock it began to clear 
up, and the sun came out, like a red ball, in 
an atmosphere of smoky haze. The volcano 
was then hidden from sight in a mantle of 
dark vapor ; the sky to the northward was 
black with falling ashes; St. Pierre was a 
mass of flames, from the Morne d' Orange to 
the Riviere des Peres, and thirty thousand 
people lay dead in its burning ruins. The 
survivors of the unprecedented disaster were 
twenty or thirty officers and sailors on the 
steamers Roddam and Roraima ; half as 
many more floating on pieces of wreckage in 
the water ; a few writhing in the agony of 
their burns at the northern end of Carbet ; 
two French gentlemen in a wrecked carriage 
on the Grande Reduit ; one woman in the 
cellar of a St. Pierre house ; and one negro 
prisoner in the dungeon of the jail. Every 



other person in the track of the volcanic dis- 
charge was either dead or dying. 

The clearest and most intelligible accounts 
of the disaster, as it appeared to observers on 
the wrecked vessels in the roadstead, are those 
given by Chief Officer Scott, Second Engineer 
Evans and Francesco d' Angelo, of the Quebec 
Line steamship Roraima. Mr. Evans was on 
deck when the hurricane-cloud burst out of 
the mountain, and he watched its descent un- 
til it struck the northern suburb of St. Pierre, 
beyond the Roxelane. ^ As the first houses 
in that quarter of the city burst into flames, 
he rushed below, with his associate Morris, 
and took refuge in the engine-room. The 
blast swept over the steamer with a great roar, 
carrying away bridge, masts, smoke-stack and 
boats ; smashing the engine-room skylights ; 
and careening the ship until water came in- 
board over the lee rail. There was no flame 
in the hurricane-cloud, but it was so intensely 
hot that it burned or scalded flesh, even under 
the protection of clothing, and made breath- 
ing, for a moment, almost impossible. When 
Evans grouped his way on deck, in the dark- 
ness that followed the blast, the steamer was 



on fire in five places. Captain Muggah, who 
was terribly burned, jumped or fell overboard 
in the confusion that followed the disaster, and 
the command then devolved upon Chief 
Oflicer Scott, who had taken refuge in the 
steerage and had escaped serious injury. 
Under his direction, half a dozen of the crew, 
who were badly burned but not completely 
disabled, began a desperate fight with the fire 
in the steerage deck-house, forward, where 
the hot volcanic dust had ignited a pile of 
mattresses, directly over two or three thou- 
sand cases of kerosene. Water was hauled up 
in buckets and thrown into the deck-house 
through the door until the flames had been 
subdued a little, and then the mattresses were 
dragged out and thrown overboard. After 
an hour or two of hard work, the most dan- 
gerous fires were gotten under control ; al- 
though combustible matter was still burning 
or smouldering in various parts of the ship. 
From the account of the disaster given by 
Chief Oflicer Scott,* it is clear that the 
Roraima was set on fire by the ignition of 

* Frank Leslie* s Popular Monthly, July, 1902. p. 233. 



their rescue between two and three o'clock in 
the afternoon. Twenty-eight survivors were 
taken from the wrecked steamer, but twenty 
of them were so burned that they died, either 
on the Suchet or in hospital at Fort de 

The story told by Francesco d'Angelo, an 
intelligent sailor of the Roraima, differs in 
some respects from the account given by 
Messrs. Scott and Evans, but presents the 
disaster from another point of view and adds 
a number of interesting details. Just before 
the hurricane cloud struck the ship, d'An- 
gelo, with two Italian sailors named Suzino 
and Avello, rushed pell-mell into the forecas- 
tle and fell at full length on the floor. Half 
a dozen other men, who were running a few 
feet behind them, tumbled over their bodies, 
just in time to screen them partially from 
the force and heat of the blast. All the men 
at the top of the heap perished ; but the 
three Italian sailors at the bottom were so 
covered up and protected that they escaped 
without mortal injury. Crawling out from 
under the bodies of their writhing comrades, 
they returned to the deck; saw that the 




steamer was on fire forward ; and, fearing an 
explosion of the kerosene in the fore-hold, 
jumped into the sea. The water was covered 
with fragments of wreckage blown from the 
decks of other vessels, and, seizing the first 
floating object that came to hand, they drifted 
iway in the darkness toward the point of 

When it grew light again, they saw float- 
ing near them an overturned deck-house 
From the bark North American. On this 
ieck-house were three Italian sailors, who 
dad been blown overboard in it, but had not 
been burned or injured in any way. Leaving 
the spar that had hitherto supported them, 
I'Angelo, Suzino and Avello swam to the 
ieck-house, and were helped to climb up on 
It by their unhurt fellow-countrymen from 
the bark. For the next three or four hours 
they drifted around in the roadstead, carried 
hither and thither by winds and currents, but 
not getting far away from the burning city. 
At some time in the course of this drift — 
i'Angelo thinks it was after noon-*— they 
:ame across Captain Muggah, still alive and 
:linging to a piece of wreckage. He was 



nearly naked ; his face was burned almost 
beyond recognition ; and he seemed to be 
totally blind ; but he was conscious, and 
asked for water and help. They had no wa- 
ter to give him, but they took him on the 
deck-house, and there, soon afterward, he 

In the course of the day d'Angelo and 
his companions picked up a number of float- 
ing or swimming survivors of the disaster, 
including a Spaniard and two negroes ; but 
they were all so terribly burned that they 
died in a few hours. About the middle of 
the afternoon the deck-house drifted in-shore 
near the mouillage, or southern end of the 
city ; and as the fires in that quarter had 
nearly died out, d'Angelo and one of the 
sailors from the North American swam 
ashore to get a boat which they could see 
lying on the Place Bertin. The boat proved 
to be shattered and unseaworthy ; but they 
found fresh water running from one of the 

* The account of Captain Mugg^h^s death gpiven by Chief 
Officer Scott differs in some respects from this, but there 
seems to be no doubt that he died on a raft, or a piece of 
wreckage, some hours after he leaped or fell overboard. 



killed or fatally burned every person who was 
fully exposed to it, both on shore and on the 
vessels in the roadstead. The only excep- 
tions of which I am aware are Messrs. Simo- 
nut and Lassere, who were just in the edge of 
the blast on the Grande Reduit, and possibly 
a few officers and sailors of the British steamer 
Roddam. I have been unable to ascertain 
how many of the crew of that vessel had shelter 
nor how many finally recovered from their in- 
juries. In the city of St. Pierre perished the 
governor of the colony and his wife ; Colonel 
Gerbault, Chief of Artillery, and his wife ; 
the British and American consuls and their 
families ; twenty-four priests ; seventy-one 
women belonging to Roman Cdtholic sister- 
hoods ; all the professors of the Lycee except 
five ; all the members of the scientific volcano 
commission except one ; * and the flower 
of Martinique's French population. 

According to the best estimate that the act- 
ing Governor of Martinique could make, 

* Major Mirville, chief pharmacist of the Military Hos- 
pital at Fort de France, had been appointed a member of this 
commission, but was accidentally prevented from going to St. 
Pierre with the other members on the 7th of May. 



there were between jOjOCX) and 3 i,ooo people 
in the area swept by the hot volcanic blast. 
Probably not more than thirty of them es- 
caped death, and only four, so far as I could 
ascertain, were uninjured. In comparison 
with such a disaster as this, the destruction of 
Pompeii seems an event of little importance. 
Never before, I think, within historic times, 
were thirty thousand people killed, in less 
than three minutes, by the direct action of a 
volcano. What were the proximate causes of 
the unprecedented catastrophe ? Were the 
destructive agencies involved therein new? 
Or did Mont Pelee act merely as other vol- 
canoes had acted, and exhibit forces that had 
been observed in operation before and that 
had produced the same results in other 
cases ? 




IT will probably be impossible to explain 
satisfactorily the destruction of St. 
Pierre, until a careful and thorough 
examination shall have been made of the 
crater and southwestern slope of the volcano, 
from which the destroying blast came. It was 
impossible for us to make such examination, 
for the reason that the crater was too active 
and the slope too hot. We availed ourselves 
of every opportunity to study the mountain 
that time and chance gave us, but our obser- 
vations were necessarily limited, and conclu- 
sions based upon them must, therefore, be 
tentative and, in part, conjectural. 

The first question that presents itself is, 
" What was the source of the volcanic dis- 




charge that swept over the city ; did it come 
from the lower crater in the valley of the 
Riviere Blanche, or from the main crater on 
the summit ? " With regard to this question 
there are differences of opinion. 

When we went up the western coast of the 
island in the tug Rubis on the 5th of 
June, we saw, about 10 a. m., a very energetic 
eruption from the Riviere Blanche crater. 
We could not determine, with perfect accu- 
racy, the location of the vent from which the 
tremendous outburst of mud-smoke came ; 
but it seemed to be situated low down on the 
slope, and not more than a mile and three- 
quarters from the coast line. The latest 
French chart of Martinique shows, on the 
right bank of the Riviere Blanche, nearly due 
east from Precheur, an unnamed peak, or ele- 
vated ridge, with a height of 2,29.6 feet. At 
the beginning of the eruption we could see 
this peak distinctly ; and the uprush of mud- 
colored vapor shbwed greatest explosive en- 
ergy at a point seven or eight hundred feet 
below and about fifteen hundred feet south- 
east of its summit. If the sub-crater be situ- 
ated there, it must lie nearly five hundred 



feet below the main crater, and a mile and 
three-quarters away from it, on a line run- 
ning about S. 30° W. This is very nearly 
the position given to it by Mr. Robert T. 
Hill, of the United States Geological Survey ; 
but it does not correspond at all with the po- 
sition of the Etang Sec, or Dry Lake, where 
destructive activity on this side of the moun- 
tain began. According to the French scien- 
tific commission of 1852, the Etang Sec was 
situated at the very head of the Riviere 
Blanche, perhaps a mile from the present 
main crater and 2,871 feet above the sea. The 
uprush of mud-vapor that we saw came from 
a point about a mile and three-quarters from 
the main crater, and not more, I think, than 
1,500 or 1,600 feet above the sea. 

The exact location of this sub-crater would 
not, perhaps, be a matter of particular im- 
portance if it had not been generally assumed 
that the blast which destroyed St. Pierre 
came from this particular vent. I do not 
think, myself, that such was the case ; but it 
is necessary to have some idea of the topog- 
raphy of the mountain on its southern and 
western sides in order to understand what 



was continuous. I had observed the same 
phenomenon from Acier during the great 
eruption of May 28, and noted it, at that 
time, as " an apparent widening of the crater 
in the direction of St. Pierre." What seemed, 
from that point of view, to be a sudden and 
extraordinary increase in the width of the as- 
cending vapor-column was nothing more than 
its extension down the fissure, or series of 
vents, in the gorge of the Riviere Blanche. 
I think it probable, therefore, that from the 
great steep-sided amphitheatre under the 
main crater there extends downward, in a di- 
rection somewhat west of St. Pierre, an open- 
ing, or openings, from the interior of the 
volcano, in the shape of a fissure, or a series 
of vents, from which dust-charged vapor rises 
during an eruption. 

The direction of this line of cleavage from 
the V-shaped opening under the main crater 
is S. 30° W., while the direction of St. Pierre 
from the same point is S. 10° W. The out- 
side lines of the explosive blast of May 8 
were, proximately, due south and S. 50° W. 
radially away from the summit crater. The 
distance of St. Pierre from that crater is a 



trifle more than four miles and a quarter, and 
from the sub-crater in the valley of the 
Riviere Blanche about two miles and three- 
fifths. The existence of a fissure, or a series 
of vents, in the trough between these two 
craters is not at all certain; but I can 
think of no other explanation of the long 
wall of mud-smoke that I saw rising from 
the line of the trough when I was in Morne 

Every eruption of mud-smoke from the 
lower crater seemed to be accompanied by an 
increased discharge of the same kind of vapor 
from the main crater, and immediately after- 
ward there were uprushes of white steam, in- 
termittent floods of hot water, and geysers of 
liquid mud in the beds of all the streams and 
from the surface of the slope. I do not think, 
however, that there were any openings from 
the interior of the volcano on that side ex- 
cept the Riviere Blanche crater, and the fis- 
sure or line of vents running from it to the 
crater on the summit. The vapor-jets and 
mud-geysers were probably nothing more 
than simple explosions, due to the sudden 
escape of steam that had formed in the hot 



lower depths of the semi-liquid but surface- 
hardened mud-slope. 

The dust-charged vapor that came out of 
the two craters often seemed to be heavier 
than the air around it, and showed a tendency 
to roll in great billows or convolutions down 
the side of the mountain as well as down the 
trough of the fissure. The greater part of it 
was thrown upward, of course, by the force of 
the subterranean explosion ; but around the 
edges of the craters, where it overflowed like 
a liquid and escaped the upward blast from 
below, it roii^d down the slope as if it were 
sinking of its o^wweight in a medium of less 
density. The move^Mttit, however, was slow, 
and the vapor, after fallmfca few hundred feet, 
generally drifted away hon^ontally in the di- 
rection of Precheur. Photograht^ taken from 
St. Pierre between the loth and )s^^ ^^ ^^Y 
show that this mud-smoke, at tirJl^s> rolled 
quite down to the level of the sea, c^'^^^'^ 
covering the slope of the volcano andtaffl 
from sight everything north of the r7!S. ^ 
Blanche. Judging from what we saw, how- 
ever, the downward movement of the vapor 
had no great force,and was dueeither to its own 



specific gravity or to a down-draught of air. 
A vapory inundation of that kind might have 
choked and suffocated the inhabitants of St. 
Pierre, but it would not have blown down 
houses and trees ; it had not energy enough. 
The blast that destroyed St. Pierre was like 
the discharge of a colossal gun, while the roll- 
ing of the mud-smoke down the trough of the 
Riviere Blanche was like the rolling down of 
fog from one level to another in the mountain 

The topographical situation of the lower 
crater, moreover, is such that it could hardly 
have thrown a vaporous discharge toward St. 
Pierre with force enough to produce the ob- 
served effects. I n the first place, it seems to 
be down in a valley, and the slope of the 
ridge that bounds this valley on the south 
would have turned the discharge upward, even 
if its original direction had been horizontal. 
In the second place, the fallen trees on the 
arete between the Riviere des Peres and the 
Riviere Blanche lie down the slope, with their 
r^ roots toward the top of the mountain and their 
heads toward St. Pierre. If they had been 
overturned by a blast from the lower crater, 



they would lie across the arete, with their roots 
toward the Riviere Blanche and their heads 
toward Morne Rouge. Finally, in an explo- 
sion of any kind, a blast of extraordinary vio- 
lence on one side indicates the existence of a 
wall or unyielding barrier behind the blast on 
the other side. The tendency of exploding 
gases is to expand equally and evenly in all 
directions ; but if escape on one side be cut 
off by an unyielding wall, the lateral force of 
the explosion on the other side will be greatly 

There is no such wall north of the lower 
crater, but there may be north of the summit 
fissure, at or above the Etang Sec. All in- 

* The extraordinary violence of the lateral blast caused by 
the explosion of the Toulon powder-magazine, in March, 
1899, was due, apparently, to the fact that the massive wall 
of the magazine on one side did not yield imtil after the wall 
on the other side had given way ; so that, as Colonel Buck- 
nill says, there was ** practically formed a sort of cannon or 
mortar.** The unyielding back wall greatly increased the 
lateral violence of the explosion in front of it, and the blast 
thus formed threw stones to a distance of two miles and a half 
and blew in doors and windows at a distance of four miles and 
a third, the discharge taking the horizontal line of least resist- 
ance and leaving objects to the right and left of that line un- 
injured. — Engineerings London, May 26, 1899. 


dications, therefore, furnished by the topog- 
raphy of the mountain, the position of fallen 
trees, and the boundaries of the devastated 
area, go to show that the destructive blast did 
not come from the crater in the valley of the 
Riviere Blanche, but had its origin at or near 
the summit of the volcano. 

The next question raised by the catastrophe 
relates to the nature of the volcanic discharge. 
Was it composed mainly of superheated steam 
densely charged with hot dust, or did it consist 
largely of inflammable gas which took fire 
in the air at a distance from its place of origin ? 
Two, at least, of the American geologists who 
went to Martinique to investigate the erup- 
tion support the gas-explosion theory, for the 
reason, apparently, that it accounts for the 
flames said to have been seen in the hur- 
ricane-cloud. But, as a matter of fact, 
did the cloud burst into flame ? I think 

The frequent reference to " flame,** " lava," 
" burning gas," and " a rain of fire," in the 
early accounts of the disaster, were due, I 
think, partly to inaccurate observation, partly 
to the appearance of lightning-flashes in the 



lateral discharge,* and partly to excitement 
and a confused blending of effect with cause. 
It is perfectly natural to associate intense 
heat with visible flame; and when a cloud 
burns flesh and sets fire to every inflamma- 
ble object that it touches, the average ob- 
server concludes that it must contain the 
flame that it communicates ; and if he has 
happened to see in it a lightning-flash or two, 
he declares, without hesitation, either that it 
came out of the volcano in the shape of a 
"whirlwind of fire," or that it suddenly 
" burst into flame " in mid-air. Some of 
the sailors of the Roraima insisted that they 
were burned by " tongues of flame " as they 
lay on the floor in the forecastle ; but when 
they were closely questioned and their atten- 
tion was called to the fact that their clothing 
was not scorched, they had to admit that they 
did not actually see the " tongues of flame,** 

* If the cloud was lighted up at intervals by electric stars, 
such as those that we saw in the volcanic mantle over Vive, 
miles away from the crater, on the night of May 26, such 
stars might easily be taken for flamelike explosions of gas ; 
but the most trustworthy observers say that they saw no elec- 
tric discharges of that kind. 



but thought that there must have been flames 
to set the ship on fire. Volcanic dust, how- 
ever, is often hot enough to set fire to wood, 
and even to green trees. Dr. James Hector, 
Director of the Geological Survey of New 
Zealand, says that the dust ejected from the 
volcano of Tarawera in June, 1886, was "so 
hot as to set fire to trees, the stumps of which 
were seen burning in many places." * 

If there was any flame, or any great ex- 
plosion of inflammable gas in the lateral 
cloud-discharge that swept down on St. 
Pierre, it could hardly have escaped the no- 
tice of Father Mary, Messrs. Simonut and 
Lassere, Mr. Guirouard, Mr. Fernand 
Clerc, Engineer Evans, and Mr. Montera — 
seven educated and intelligent observers, who 
were watching the eruption from Morne 
Rouge, the Grande Reduit, Mont Parnasse, 
the deck of the Roraima, and the bridge of the 
Pouyer Quertier. I shall therefore dismiss 
all stories of flame and explosions of inflam- 
mable gas as unworthy of serious considera- 
tion, for the reason that they do not seem to 

-^Preliminary Report to the Govemmenty Nature^ Vol. 
34, p. 389. 



be adequately supported by credible testi- 
mony, and for the further reason that all the 
results of the eruption may be satisfactorily 
accounted for without assuming the existence 
of flame or gaseous explosions in the volcanic 
cloud. The lateral discharge was hot, just 
as the simultaneous discharge from the main 
crater was hot, and for the same reason ; but 
there was no flame in the one or the other 

As a means of accounting for the great 
destruction of life in St. Pierre, it has been 
supposed— or perhaps I should say conjec- 
tured — that the hurricane-cloud contained 
asphyxiating as well as inflammable gases ; 
but this supposition seems to me no better 
supported than the other. 

Messrs. Lassere and Simonut, who were 
struck by the blast on the Grande Reduit ; 
Evans and Morris, the second and fourth en- 
gineers of the Roraima ; Franceso d'Angelo, 
Giuseppe Suzino, and Salvadore Avello, Ital- 
ian sailors on the Roraima ; and Auguste 
Ciparis, the prisoner in the dungeon of the 
city jail, all declare that they were not choked 
by gas, and that they smelled nothing un- 
usual except a slight sulphurous odor which 



in this lava-column is under enormous pres- 
sure, and is prevented from expanding only 
by the unyielding walls of the chimney within 
which it is confined. As the lava-column 
rises in the chimney, it comes at last to a 
place where the weight of the rocks in the 
throat of the choked-up vent above, or the 
resistance offered by the sides of the narrow- 
ing cone, is less than the expansive force of 
the imprisoned steam. The cone then gives 
way at its weakest point — generally at the 
summit-crater, where it has given way in 
earlier eruptions — ^and the superheated steam, 
suddenly released from pressure, explodes 
with tremendous violence, blowing into fine 
dust the molten rock which holds it, and 
finally escaping, with the dust, in a hot blast 
which goes upward through the crater, or out 
laterally through a fissure, like the discharge 
from a colossal gun.* 

* ** Whatever may be its source, we cannot doubt that to 
the enormous expansive force of superheated water (or its 
component gases dissociated by the high temperature) in the 
molten magma at the roots of volcanoes, the explosions of a 
crater and the subsequent rise of a lava-column are mainly 
due. The water or gas dissolved in the lava is retained there 
by the enormous overl3ring pressure of the lava-column ; but 



This, it seems to me, is what happened in 
Martinique on the 8th of May. The expan- 
sive force of the steam dissolved in the lava- 
column was so great that it not only exploded 
upward through the main crater, but blew 
out a part of the mountain side, and pro- 
jected, through the fissure thus formed, a 
lateral discharge of superheated steam and 
molten lava dust which swept the southwest- 
ern face of the volcano like a red-hot hurri- 
cane. The weight of the dust carried by 
the steam, and perhaps at first the density of 
the steam itself, had a tendency to de- 
press the blast, so that it followed the slope 

when the molten material is brought up to the siu^ce, the 
pressure is relieved and the water vaporizes and escapes. . . . 
Where the relief is sudden and extreme, the escape of the 
water-vapor may be by an explosive discharge." 

** The aqueous vapor, which is so largely dissolved in many 
lavas, must exist in the lava-column under an enormous pres- 
sure at a temperature far above its critical point — even at a 
white heat — and therefore possibly in a state of dissociation. 
The sudden ascent of lava so constituted relieves the pressure 
rapidly, without sensibly affecting the temperatiu'e of the 
mass. Consequently, the white-hot vapors at length explode 
and reduce the molten mass to the finest powder, like water 
shot out of a gun." — "Text-Book of Geology," by Sir 
Archibald Geikie, pp. 215, 266. New York, 1893. 



of the mountain down, almost as if it had 
been a liquid. According to the estimate of 
Mr. Fernand Clerc, upon which I place most 
reliance, it went from the fissure to the sea in 
a period of time that was not less than two 
nor more than three minutes, or at an average 
speed-rate of from ninety to one hundred and 
thirty-five miles an hour. The temperature 
of the molten rock when the bursting expan- 
sion of the steam that it contained blew it 
into fine dust was probably above 2,000° 
Fahrenheit ; but the blast cooled rapidly in 
its four-mile course to the sea, and when it 
struck St. Pierre the steam was not hot 
enough to kill instantly, although it scalded 
flesh under clothing, and the dust was not 
hot enough to burn everything, although it 
set fire to objects of a particularly inflamma- 
ble nature. As there were no closed win- 
dows in St. Pierre houses (and the windows 
would have been blown in even if they had 
been closed), the dust rushed into all the in- 
teriors, and found inflammable objects in al- 
most every apartment. This was probably 
the reason for the sudden bursting into flame 
of the whole city. The houses took fire 



the lateral discharge from Mont Pelee.* The 
fact that volcanoes in general throw out im- 
mense quantities of steam, mixed with a very 
small quantity of other gas, made it ante- 
cedently improbable that Mont Pelee would 
suddenly reverse the proportions by ejecting 
an immense volume of inflammable gas, mixed 
with only a small volume of steam. There is 
no trustworthy evidence, moreover, that it 
did do so. 

If there had been any explosion of gas in 
the air on the southwestern face of the moun- 
tain, and if this had been the cause of the de- 
struction, trees would have been blown down 

* ** Steam has been estimated to form nine hundred and 
ninety-nine one-thousandths of the whole cloud which hangs 
over an active volcano." — Geikie^s "Text-Book of Geol- 
ogy*" P- 193- 

**The vapors which are emitted by the liquid lava of 

the volcano are at least ninety-nine per cent, steam, or vapor 
of water." — ** Characteristics of Volcanoes," by James D. 
Dana, pp. 7-8. N.Y., 1890. 

*<St. Clair Deville and Fouque have shown that the 
gaseous ejections, of which steam forms probably ninety- 
nine per cent., are such as rise from water admitted to a pre- 
exist ent focus of high temperature." — Robert Mallet, in in- 
troduction to "The Eruption of Vesuvius in 1872," by 
Professor Luigi Palmieri. London, 1873. 



radially on all sides of the center of ex- 
plosion — westward on the western side, and 
eastward on the eastern side ; but such was 
not the case. In St. Pierre, in the valley of 
the Roxelane, on the edge of the Grande 
Reduit, and on the arete between the Riviere 
des Peres and Riviere Seche, the trees all lie 
with their heads directly away from a point 
near the summit of the volcano, between the 
Etang Sec and the main crater. 

It has been urged in support of the gas- 
explosion theory that the destruction ob- 
served is too great to have been caused by a 
blast originating so far away as the Etang Sec, 
or even so far away as the lower crater ; and 
that, consequently, it must have resulted from 
a gaseous explosion in the erupted cloud at a 
point in the air that was much nearer. This 
argument, however, seems to me to have lit- 
tle force. An accidental explosion of 1 83 tons 
of gunpowder, at Toulon, France, in March, 
1889, caused a lateral blast which carried 
stones to a distance of two miles and a half, 
blew in doors and windows at a distance of 
four miles and a third, and produced a per- 
ceptible shock at a distance of fifty miles ; and 



yet the force exerted by the most powerful 
explosive that man can make is insignificant 
in comparison with the energy exhibited by 
such a volcano as Mont Pelee.* 

But in the history of volcanic eruptions 
there are other cases where lateral discharges 
of superheated steam and hot dust have pro- 
duced all the effects observed in Martinique. 
The eruption of the Japanese volcano Bandai- 
san, in 1888, was like the recent eruption of 
Mont Pelee in almost every particular, in- 
cluding horizontal blast, hot dust, darkness, 
mud-rain, demolished houses, burned people, 
and whole forests of overturned trees. The 
explosion, or series of explosions, tore off a 
portion of the side wall of the old crater ; 
loosened an immense mass of rock, which fell 
in an avalanche upon the lower slopes of the 
mountain ; and liberated a blast of super- 
heated steam and dust which swept, like *^ a 

* Engineering (London), May ^26, 1899. See also 
the description given by J. F. H. Herschel of the blast at 
Dover, England, January 26, 1843, where eight tons of gun- 
powder blew out of the side of a cliff 400, 000 cubic yards of 
rock, weighing 2,000,000 tons, and scattered the fragments 
to an average depth of fourteen feet over an area of eighteen 
acres. — Journal of the Franklin Institute^ Vol. 35, p. 270. 



to death, or otherwise killed, in the eruption 
of the Japanese volcano, but the compara- 
tively small loss of life was due to the fact 
that the part of the country where the catas- 
trophe occurred was thinly populated. If 
there had been a city of thirty thousand in- 
habitants in the Biwa-sawa valley, it would 
probably have been destroyed by the hot 
blast from Bandai-san, exactly as St. Pierre 
was destroyed by the hot blast from Mont 

As I have been forced to give to the phe- 
nomena of the Martinique eruption an ex- 
planation that differs in some respects from 
that given by most of the American geol- 
ogists who visited the island, I am glad to 
find myself supported, in part, by one of the 
leading scientific men in the West Indies — 
Dr. Nicholls, C.M.G., of Dominica. In a 
letter written May 29 to Sir W. T. This- 
elton-Dyer, Dr. Nicholls said : " It would 
appear that a sudden fissure was opened on 

* " The Eruption of Bandai-san,** by S. Sikiya, Professor 
of Seismology, and Y. Kikuchi, Professor of Geology, in 
the Imperial University of Tokyo. — Journal of the College oj 
Science^ Imperial University, Vol. III. , Part 2. Tokyo, 1889. 



the side of the moiintain overlooking the city, 
and near the Etang Sec. On this flank of 
the mountain a large vent belched out lava, 
superheated steam, and acid gases downward, 
on to St. Pierre and the roadstead. The 
flashing oflTinto steam of the water imprisoned 
in the incandescent lava converted that lava 
into sand and dust before it reached the city ; 
and the radiation of heat from the molten 
rock, at a temperature of above i,ooo° Cen- 
tigrade, caused an incredibly hot blast that 
would create a red-hot hurricane — ^if I may 
employ such a term — that would kill people 
and animals instantly, and that would cause 
all inflammable matter to burst into flame. 
This, from what I gather, is what really hap- 
pened ; and I do not think that poisonous 
gases or electrical phenomena are accountable 
for the destruction of life. You can imagine 
what is the enormous heat right over the 
vent of an active volcano. Well, St. Pierre, 
practically, for a short time, was in such a 
position, the vent being directed laterally 
toward the city." * 

* Nature (London), June 26, 1902 



This explanation of the catastrophe is brief, 
but it seems to me to account satisfactorily 
for all the effects produced and all the ob- 
served phenomena for which there is 
trustworthy testimony. 

When we returned to Fort de France, after 
our trip up the western coast of the island on 
the tug Rubis, we thought that we should see 
no more eruptions of Mont Pelee ; but just 
before we sailed for New York, the volcano 
gave us a final exhibition of its majesty and 
power. Friday morning, a littie after ten 
o'clock, as I sat in my room writing, I heard 
the voice of Mr. Jaccaci calling to me in an 
excited way from the lower landing ; and as I 
rushed to my open door, he shouted : " Look 
at the volcano ! There's another big erup- 
tion ! " Mont Pelee was hidden from our 
point of view by the intervening peaks of 
Carbet ; but over those peaks, at a height of 
two or three miles, I saw advancing, with ex- 
traordinary rapidity, the sun-illumined edge 
of a great volcanic cloud, which had been 
formed evidently by the mushrooming out of 
an immense column of dust-charged vapor 
from the main crater. When I first caught 



suddenly into the sea from the western slope 
of the volcano. This may or may not ac- 
count for the oscillations ; but it is certain 
that every great eruption of Mont Pelee since 
the 8th of May has been attended or followed 
by small tidal waves of this kind, and no 
earthquake shock has been observed at any 
point on the coast. 

After the volcanic cloud passed the zenith 
— fifteen miles and a half from the crater — 
it lost its rapidity of motion ; but it contin- 
ued to extend southward until it covered all 
of the sky except a narrow strip just above 
the horizon in the northeast, and another 
similar strip in the south. It then overshad- 
owed the whole of Martinique and probably 
had a diameter of seventy-five or eighty 
miles. It certainly showered ashes on the 
island of St. Lucia, and caused such dark- 
ness at Castries that the Royal Mail steamer 
had to use a search-light in groping her way 
into the harbor. In Fort de France there 
was no fall of ashes and the darkness was like 
that of a total eclipse. The sky to the west- 
ward was intensely black, and the water of the 
ocean under it looked like dark green marble 



streaked with veins of malachite. On this 
blackish -green sea, and under that hurricane 
cloud, all lighter colors, and especially white, 
assumed extraordinary vividness and brillian- 
cy. The dull red of the harbor buoys became 
bright scarlet, the dirty spritsails of a few 
small fishingboats looked like squares of snow, 
and the sides of the French cruiser Suchet 
were so intensely and brilliantly white as to 
be almost dazzling. At that time there was 
no direct sunshine, and all the light we had 
came from the narrow strip of uncovered sky 
along the northeastern horizon. 

The gloom lasted about three hours. At 
one o'clock in the afternoon the volcanic 
cloud began to drift slowly westward; at 
three o'clock the sun was shining dimly in 
an atmosphere filled with smoky haze ; and 
two hours later there remained only a bank 
of dark vapor, resting apparently on the 
ocean off St. Pierre and Precheur. 

This was the last eruption of the great 
Martinique volcano that we witnessed. Three 
days later we sailed on the Quebec liner Fon- 
tabelle for New York.